What is a Process Server? The Basics – Part 1

What is a Process Server?

It’s a question I hear a few times a week. As I meet and speak with people in my daily life, the topic of what I do often comes up. When I am able to exercise brevity, I simply tell people  that I am a Registered Process Server, to which my new acquaintances often respond “What is that?” or “Oh yeah, like that movie! Do you ever wear costumes or get punched out?”.

Taking the second question first, I do not wear costumes and I have never been punched out or physically assaulted during any of the thousands of serves I’ve completed. Boring, I know…

The first question requires a bit more explaining:

A process server is anyone who engages in the act of serving process on parties to a legal matter. Process in this context derives from the Constitutional concept of Due Process (U.S. Constitution, Amendments 5 and 14), a person’s right to be given notice of pending legal actions against or involving them. So basically, a process server delivers papers to people (and in doing so fulfills fundamental requirements of the legal process in America, which is pretty cool!)

In California, this can be anyone over the age of 18 and not themselves a party to the legal matter of which they will serve notice. Such a person can serve process up to 10 times a year before having to become registered with the county in which they reside. If you plan to serve more than 10 papers in a year, you need to get registered. If you are serving more than 10 papers in a year, I hope you are charging for your service and making money. If not, check back for Part 6 of this series, Running a Process Server Business!

A well-rounded process server also dabbles in the worlds of private investigating, judgment collection, courier services and court assistance. One of the services I provide my clients is attempting to locate a valid address for their defendant if they do not know where to serve their papers.

Perhaps the person being served recently moved. What then? I have access to databases that attempt to “track” people as they move around. I perform an address locator search for my clients, free of charge, and many times can find a new address, get the papers served there, earn my fee and impress my clients.

A process server may also branch out to provide court service such as file copying, document filing, research and more.  There are entire associations for those who provide photocopying services for law firms and litigants, some of whom are also process servers.  Depending on the type of client you seek and your areas of strength, you may find yourself handling jobs that are very different than the next process server.  Other areas of the legal industry to which a process server may cross over will be explored in a later post.

Now that you know the basics of what a process server is, what one does and why they are necessary in legal matters, stay tuned for Part 2 of this series: Why are Process Servers Important?


  1. Do Your Homework - Approaching a New Serve | The Basics – Part 4 - iservepapers.com - […] hope you have read and enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series covering the basics …
  2. Do Your Homework | The Basics – Part 4 - iservepapers.com - […] hope you have read and enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series covering the basics …

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