When choosing a vendor for your messenger service or process service it’s critical to choose an employee-based company. Using a company which relies on independent contractors holds a number of risks, all of which can be extremely detrimental to a law firm’s client relationships. If you use a process server or messenger, be sure to ask the correct questions to ensure those who are handling your job are employees.
Potential Issues in Process Service
Process service plays an essential role in any case, from the initial notification to defendants to requests for documents or appearance at depositions and trials. Without a vendor you can count on timelines can be significantly extended and increasing costs can be incurred, particularly when independent contractors are not paid for non-serves. Without being paid as an employee the incentive to put in as much time as necessary to complete service is significantly diminished. In these instances it’s common for one or two attempts to be made before the service is deemed a non-serve.
You need to know you can rely on your process server to not only to effectuate service, but also to defend the integrity of an affidavit in the event the service is contested. With independent contractors, there is often a revolving door of individuals making it difficult to get someone to appear for a traverse hearing. With employee-based companies like DGR, where a large majority of our staff has been with the organization for over 10 years, you’re much more likely to have the process server available to appear in court to ensure the service is upheld.
There is also the concern of proper training. Depending on the state and type of service and case, there may be specific requirements as to how many attempts must be made and the timing of those attempts. Employees receive consistent training to keep them up to date with the ever-changing rules and regulations of proper service, whereas an independent contractor cannot be trained and may not be aware of those updates.
Potential Issues in Messenger Service
Messengers provide a necessary service for law firms. While the introduction of e-filing has reduced the need for courier service within the legal industry, it is still necessary to have a reliable vendor you can call upon at any moment. Scrambling at 3pm to find a messenger service who can handle your request can result in a missed deadline, leading to a very unhappy client.
While couriers who depend on independent contractors can’t adequately prepare for adjustments in varying volume of client requests, employee-based companies have the staff on hand to make sure any delivery can be completed. Just like with process servers, messengers who are employees receive constant training on how to ensure packages arrive exactly where they need to be. While an independent contractor may not realize the importance of delivering a package directly to the Judge’s Chambers, a DGR employee knows the only way of guaranteeing delivery on time is to walk the package down to the Chambers themselves.
Large Scale Concerns
There are general business concerns that arise from the use of independent contractors. The laws dictating who is an employee and who is an independent contractor comes with a lot of grey area. Should your current vendor be audited, would the people who work for them pass as employees or independent contractors?
Will that company remain in business once they are audited and fined for non-compliance?
If a company is being run using independent contractors, but an audit shows them instead to be employees, the resulting fines and back payments could be enough to put a company out of business. There are certain taxes and financial responsibilities that comes with employees. Any company that has been in business more than a few years could easily see significant back payments that outweigh their current financial stability.
Questions To Ask Vendors
Discuss with your vendors how they use independent contractors and if they have employees. Ask if those employees outside of the office specifically are employees. Many time the office staff may be all employees but the process servers and messengers are not.
Being aware of the independent contractor versus employee status of your vendors will provide you with better insight as how vendor choice can impact your firm’s reputation. All it takes it is one bad service or missed delivery to ruin a great client relationship. Your vendors are an extension of the image of your firm, so be sure to choose then wisely.