Private investigators and process servers share a lot of overlap in their duties – locating and tracking people, interviewing, using the latest technology to gather information, and so on. It’s no surprise that many PIs choose to expand their offered services by also offering to serve legal papers. This can be a significant source of revenue, as many organizations will be glad to work with a process server that has the experience and professionalism of a private investigator (this is why it can be a competitive field).
If you are interested in expanding your PI services, we suggest you start with our list below.
Look to Your State Laws First
This is the first and most important step any PI should take when looking into becoming a process server. State regulations for serving papers can vary greatly, and requirements may also differentiate between process serving and private investigation. The good news is that serving papers is usually simpler and easier to qualify for than being a private investigator: If you already have your PI license, becoming a process server should not be difficult as long as you pay attention to the laws.
In California, for example, laws for becoming a server are relatively relaxed. You can serve papers on the side casually, but if you serve more than 10 times per year, you will need to register as a process server (including fingerprints, photos, background check, etc.) and post a $2,000 cash bond.
Nevada, on the other hand, is much more strict. If you want to be a process server there, you must be over 21, pass a background check, work for two years in the field, pass a state exam, and have at least $200,000 in liability insurance. PIs working with state regulations like this would be well-advised to start early and build their experience so they can reach full qualification as soon as possible.
Then states like Texas fall somewhere between the two: Texas regulations require those interested to complete an education course and apply for an Application of Certification, which will include a small fee and a background check, with renewal steps every two years. This is relatively easy to complete for a PI even while maintaining regular cases.
Update Your Services ASAP
When you start serving papers, you need to let clients know about it. Update your advertisements, portfolio, website, and any other materials that you provide to clients to include your ability to serve papers as well. If you are working with current legal clients, it’s a good idea to contact them and let them know that you are now accepting jobs to serve papers as well.
Note that you don’t necessarily have to be certified to serve papers in the beginning: In our California and Nevada examples, you start serving before gaining your full certification as a process server. So, you won’t need to wait until certification to update your own service information, either – just avoid saying that you are certified until you actually are.
Brush Up on Your Location Skills
Make sure you are equipped for finding someone’s location both on and offline – after all, that’s what being a process server is all about. In fact, it can be more challenging than many PI cases for finding missing people, because some will work hard to avoid being served papers at all. Your skip tracing skills need to be top-notch to handle the harder cases and build your reputation, so do a review of your current capabilities and make any upgrades necessary so you are prepared. While the movies like to portray process servers with plenty of disguises and tricks, most of the work is doing the research and using the right tools for the job.
Adopt a Platform
We also suggest looking for a process server app that’s active in your area. Like many fields, serving papers has become far more efficient thanks to today’s technology, and that means that certain platforms are dedicated to tracking current serving opportunities and making them available to interested parties.
See if there are any platforms like this operating in your area and what it takes to sign up – ABC Legal has one option that you may want to look into if you want to work for a service that takes care of the details while building your experience. Serve-Now will help you build a platform specifically for offering process server capabilities. These platforms will have their own requirements, like subscription fees and proof of certification in various states, so it’s important to find a platform that works well with your goals.
If you are interested in being certified as a process server, start now! The earlier you become qualified, the easier it will be to start building your serving experience and providing proof of your certification to potential clients. It’s also a good idea to set a reminder for renewal in two years or whenever certification requires it, as renewing an expired license can be more difficult than maintaining current certification.