Myths and Facts about Process Servers

Not everyone has the right stuff to be a process server. It is a vocation that requires the tact of a diplomat, the instincts of a bloodhound, and the patience of Job. It can be a difficult profession to describe but one that deserves clarity. Why? Because a process server who does the job badly can compromise an entire legal matter.

This article erases 6 common myths about process servers. It replaces misperceptions with a clear view of the resourcefulness, technical savvy, and almost encyclopedic knowledge about serving legal papers that good process servers must possess.

Getting the facts will also help you make sure the providers you hire and work with will are able to do the job right.

Myth 1: A Process Server’s Job Involves Disguises, Danger, and Deception

Fact: There are indeed times when a process server must handle a reluctant person or an emotionally charged situation. More commonly, though, the individuals being served accept service without incident and treat a process server as someone who simply is doing his or her job.

Good process servers know they cannot break the law while serving documents. By obeying the laws process servers make their own jobs safer, which means they do not under any circumstances:

  • trespass on private property
  • break into a home
  • pretend to be a police officer or an officer of the court
  • force doors open
  • look in or open mailboxes
  • deliver documents to a minor
  • make threats.

The best process servers understand the minutiae of the local rules that prescribe how documents must be served, who can be served, how service should be completed, and related deadlines. Process servers must continually update what they know and stay abreast of rule changes.

Do you think you know a good service of process provider when you see one?

Test your knowledge here:

What to Look for When Hiring a Process Serving Company.

Process Servers Must Physically Hand-deliver Papers to a Person Being Served

Myth 2: Process Servers Must Physically Hand-deliver Papers to a Person Being Served

Fact: Despite popular belief, a process server does not need to physically put the legal papers into the hands of the person they are serving. And, contrary to popular portrayals on television or film, they don’t have to say, “You’ve been served!”

While rules vary from state to state, documents are generally considered served when the process server has confirmed the identity of the person being served. At that point, the documents may be handed to the person or left at the door or a nearby place if the person refuses to accept them.

Each state, county, and local municipality has regulations and guidelines regarding how and when different paperwork should be delivered. A truly exceptional process server will be able to tell you what they are without losing a beat.

Ask these nine questions to get the clear and direct answers you need to qualify a process serving company.

9 Questions to Ask a Process Serving Company

Myth 3: Almost Anyone Can Be a Process Server

Fact: While most states require no special licensing or education to be a process server, the skills, and qualities needed to be effective at process serving extend far beyond those for simply delivering documents.

Good process servers are valued for their efficiency, efficacy, and reliability. But a more specific set of qualities separates excellent process servers from the merely adequate. They include:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Patience
  • Industriousness
  • Craftiness

In California, process servers are required to apply and be registered in the county where they serve. Registration is statewide and the process server must have lived in California for at least 1 year.

Is your process server fumbling your legal documents?
Is your process server fumbling your legal documents?

Myth 4: Process Servers Only Serve Legal Documents

Fact: The work of a process server isn’t limited to simply handing over documents to the receiving party. A professional server applies specific skills, knowledge, and tools to successfully complete the full scope of tasks associated with service of process.


Getting an individual served and having the service stand up in court requires knowledge of the court rules and service requirements, so process servers must stay abreast of state regulations, research methods, and technology. They must be well-versed in the substance of subpoenas, summons, complaints, and other legal documents.


Process servers oftentimes are tasked with finding hard-to-locate individuals, which requires using both online and offline resources to home in on the location of persons or businesses.

  • Because people are more mobile than in the past, it can be challenging to locate a current address for someone.
  • Businesses that operate as a “dba” or through shell companies can also be hard to locate.
  • Considerable research may be required to find a current address before having to petition a court for substituted service.

Process servers use a range of technology to conduct research to locate a person or entity including:

  • Search engines
  • Social media sites
  • Databases

GPS-enabled mobile apps that verify location are also essential tools for process servers who need to record delivery attempts.

Use of Technology

Use of Technology

Arguably one of the most advanced uses of technology by modern process serving companies (and other attorney service providers) is a high-performance technology platform for managing their services and workflows.

A technology platform provides a process serving company an online portal for ordering, tracking, and completing service of process. A portal allows a process server to submit, manage, track, and execute each order for service of process anywhere in the nation from a single point.

The technology platform a process server uses should also improve efficiency in two important ways:

  1. Eliminate paper controls.
  2. Save time by enabling the process server to eSign the proof of service.

Process servers with this portal/technology can typically provide clients superior service because they can better utilize their internal expertise, reduce errors, provide more timely updates to clients, and better prioritize each order.

If your process server isn’t using the right tools they can’t deliver the best results.

Read: Technology Your Process Server Should Be Using to find out if you’re getting all the speed and conveniences available.

A Process Server’s Job is Complete Once the Papers Have Been Served

Myth 5: A Process Server’s Job is Complete Once the Papers Have Been Served

Fact: After serving court documents, one crucial step remains to complete the service of process: the process server must submit Proof of Service to the court.

Sometimes called an Affidavit or Certificate of Service, Proof of Service is a document that functions like a sworn statement from the process server confirming the delivery of documents from one party to another in a legal matter.

Proof of service also provides a valuable protection to a court case: If a defendant wrongly claims papers were never served, proof of service demonstrates otherwise.

It may seem like a minor formality, but proof of service performed incorrectly can profoundly impact a legal matter by creating delays or causing a case to be dismissed.

Common errors include:

  • Not using the correct form for proof of service based on the type of legal document that was served
  • Filling out a form inaccurately or incompletely
  • Missing the deadline for filing the original completed Proof of Service
  • Not following the correct process for filing Proof of Service when substitute service was used instead of personal service.

Using a qualified service of process provider will help you know as quickly as possible whether service has been effected and properly completed. Rapid Legal, for example, generally returns the proof of service within 2-3 business days from the date service takes place.

Legal professionals who use Rapid Legal’s service of process receive an alert directly in their email inbox notifying them that service has been completed. This means they spend less time following up with vendors and worrying about their order status.

Want to Build Your Proof of Service Knowledge?

Use this Resource:

Proof of Service Boot Camp: What Every Legal Professional Should Know

Avoid a Lawsuit by Avoiding a Process Server

Myth 6: Avoid a Lawsuit by Avoiding a Process Server

Fact: Lawsuits cannot begin until a defendant has been properly served. For this reason some people mistakenly believe they may avoid a lawsuit simply by avoiding service.

Avoiding a process server may delay a lawsuit but it does not mean legal documents cannot be served and the process cannot continue. The courts realize some individuals will avoid service and consequently have established provisions for evasive, hard-to-serve people.

The rules vary among jurisdictions but many courts require process servers to make at least three attempts to serve someone in person.

Furthermore, some courts may require personal service to be attempted at certain times of day to maximize the likelihood of a successful serve.

If personal service on an evasive party cannot be completed after multiple attempts, a process server may perform substituted service of process on another person or entity.

Substituted service can include:

  • Leaving the papers with an agent of the recipient;
  • Leaving them with an adult of sound mind at the recipient’s home;
  • Leaving them at the corporation’s office—or place of transacting business; or
  • Posting the papers in a public place and then mailing copies of the documents to the recipient(s).

The types of parties that may be used for substituted service vary, so a process server must be well acquainted with the local court rules governing substitution of service.

The Right Process Server for the Job

Process servers are the arms and legs of civil litigation. Millions of dollars in fees and settlements hinge on good process serving so it is critical to have a quality process service provider with the experience, know-how, and technology platform to get the job done.

Put Rapid Legal’s best-in-class service of process to work for you. Make your move to begin receiving court-stamped documents and proofs of service fast and reliably.

Book a demo or schedule a call with an account manager now.