Service of Process: Just Like the Movies

There’s a reason that there’s never been an epic movie about Bankruptcy lawyers: To the rest of the world, it’s not very exciting work.

In fact, the only movie about it (that I know of) is Heart and Souls (1993), starring Robert Downey, Jr. as a creditor bankruptcy attorney who goes after struggling companies and shuts them down when they can’t pay their bills.  The premise is that his four childhood guardian angels come back to visit him and are shocked at the work he does. (Yikes).

But, there is one aspect of my practice that is just like the movies: Service of Process.

Under the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, a lawsuit and summons must be physically served on an individual (Per Rule 4.04).

This part of the process can be frustrating to clients, because, until you get the other party served, they have no responsibility to answer and the case doesn’t move forward. Obviously, the other party in the lawsuit has every incentive to dodge, evade, and generally run from you when you go to serve them.

I wrote about this on Paid in Full–some of my clients get so upset that they want to serve the process themselves (which they can’t).

My advice: Find a really good process server, one who is willing to be creative in order to get the job done.

Have you ever seen the movie Pineapple Express? In that movie, Seth Rogen plays a sneaky process server, who has a car full of costumes and disguises. That’s who you want working for you.

I have a guy right now, who is great. He’s gone to the door with a big bouquet of flowers. He’s used a pizza delivery guy disguise. Around the holidays, he doesn’t serve “process”–he delivers “gifts.” Who doesn’t like gifts?

Sometimes you get efficient and good results because you’re a great lawyer. Sometimes, it’s because the other side thinks they have a secret admirer.

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