MAY 21, 2013 5:32pm ET

Adapting Process Serving to the Changing Times

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During the last decade, process serving has greatly changed. It has become more of a science than a paper delivery service.

In an industry that includes thousands of default lawyers and investors with multiple properties as well as borrowers who are becoming increasingly savvy in avoiding their mortgage obligation, process serving has become an integral part in reaching a resolution.

In the past, when people thought of process serving, they may have lowered their voice or closed the door so as not to be heard. The idea of serving papers on a homeowner was not a popular business to which many flocked.

The connection that process servers offer that facilitates better communications between servicers and borrowers is now welcomed. This is an important and necessary step that should be conducted with respect, and one that also helps everyone involved in the process successfully move to the next phase of their lives.

During the 1990s it was not uncommon for a process server to be given a case to file with expectations to complete it within 60 days without follow up from the law firm or servicer. Today, larger, more technologically savvy and sound process serving companies can complete the process in half the time.

There are several facets of the business that have changed. Below are three of those areas:

Getting in the business. Simply getting into the process serving business is more difficult than it used to be. The ever-increasing regulations require banks to be more conscientious of the companies with which they partner. Banks and law firms alike are looking for process service operations that 1) can manage the process from beginning to end, 2) are up-to-date with the latest compliance requirements, 3) have a solid infrastructure in place including strong financials that show a commitment to remaining in business, and 4) have a national network of process servers who can meet a client’s national needs.

Technology. Process serving has historically been a very manual, paper-driven industry that included many key strokes, faxes and phone calls. Now, with the increased use of mobile devices and applications that can integrate programs and offer e-signature capabilities, the effort needed has been reduced and efficiency has increased. This makes it possible for process servers to increase their case load and complete those cases in less time. While there are still some obstacles to overcome when contemplating the concept of  paperless court systems, the intention is there to allow technology to improve a process that previously consumed a great deal of time.

More than couriers. While many people considered process servers just couriers, the business has evolved to require more management than delivery. Process servers ensure that consumers receive the information they need to make important decisions regarding their mortgages situation. Today’s process servers are able to take on cases from law firms and servicers and complete the entire process. This enables lawyers to focus on the legal aspect of the case, while the servicer can focus on servicing issues.

Where Could It Go?

There are many people in the legal profession who believe the process serving industry is too “old fashion.” Critics often tout alternative service methods, such as email, social media sites and online publications as potential replacements for traditional process serving. While these services may have a place in the legal system in the future, knowledgeable jurists know there is simply no substitute for “in hand” personal service when it comes to protecting due process and the rights of all homeowners.

Process serving, just like many aspects of default mortgage management, has evolved during the last decade. It is important to remember that evolution can be positive as long as you can improve the process for everyone involved. The goal should be to gain wisdom from experience and let that drive change.

Carl Turro is vice president of ProVest.

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