In this installment of Observations from Reception, a Law Firm Suites’ staffer serves process as a favor to Law Firm Suites’ executive suite NYC rental client and, in the process, learns first hand just how difficult (and dangerous) a process server’s job is.
Solo and small firm attorneys are mostly insulated from the actual mechanics serving process. We hand the pleadings over to the service provider together with a check, and we get an affidavit of service a few days later. For most attorneys, what happens in between is a complete mystery.
As a favor to one of our executive suite NYC rental clients who was in a bind, one of our staff members agreed to serve a complaint that took James Bond-style antics to complete.
This is an account of what it takes to obtain jurisdiction:
Our staffer met with the attorney to take custody of the legal paperwork which included two boxes (weighing approximately 25 pounds each) and a briefcase.
The target for service was a financial services company, and our staffer was looking for one of four principals.
Upon arriving at the target’s office building, our staffer had to figure out a way to bypass lobby security. He told them he was dropping of investment papers to the firm.
Potential parties to an action will do almost anything to avoid proper service.
When he reached the office, he explained to the receptionist that he needed to deliver the “investment” documents personally to one of the named defendants. The receptionist must have been through this before and told him all four gentleman he asked for were currently on vacation.
A gentleman then emerged from his office and authoritatively asked our guy why he was there and who he was looking for. Our staffer stuck to his story. The gentleman repeated the receptionist’s vacation tale and advised further that he didn’t have any more information because he was just an “underling.”
Our staffer placed the boxes next to the receptionist and was yelled at. She kept telling our staffer that she was calling security. Above all, she would not accept the paperwork.
Process servers have to be inventive to accomplish the task.
Our guy just sat there and waited until nature called and she was forced to leave the desk. After she exited, he looked over the edge of her desk and wrote the names down of business cards he saw there, including the secretary and the CEO of the company.
The “underling” passed through the lobby again.
On a hunch, our guy called out the name on the CEO’s business card. It paid off. He stopped in his tracks and answered: “Yes?”
This was all that was needed. The CEO attempted to refuse the document, but our guy pushed it into his hand.
A process server’s job is dangerous.
As our staffer exited the office, the CEO and three other staff members yelled “HEY!.” He turned quickly to find them advancing after him. One gentleman yelled, “I bet you feel like a real tough guy, huh?” They followed a few steps behind him as the elevator door opened. They screamed, “You will regret this,” in addition to other colorful language. He later told us how he thought the words would escalate to physical violence.
No one wants to be served. And the process server has the burden of getting the job done while being in a hostile environment.
It took our staffer two and one-half very intense hours to complete service, start to finish, and return to our NYC shared office space.
We thought the story was worth sharing, if only so you feel better about the next check you write to your process server.
Considering the time, energy and risk of bodily harm that goes into satisfactorily completing service, and the fact that process servers typically get paid under $200, it’s money well-spent.
Observations from Reception is a bi-weekly blog series written by Law Firm Suites’ administrative staff designed to help solo and small firm attorneys in our Manhattan law office sublet practice more efficiently and improve their clients’ experience by analyzing practice behavior from a non-practitioner’s point of view. Law Firm Suites is the leading provider of shared lawyer office space Manhattan.