There are many ways to serve documents, pleadings, and exhibits these days. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming. A quick search online will present dozens of different eService providers offering electronic service of legal documents through custom software (including File & ServeXpress). Why did it have to get more complicated than sending documents through USPS or email?
The truth is, you can use mail or email and have some success. But it’s worth looking at other options available. In the long run, using a dedicated service platform can save you time and reduce potential complications of the process. Here, we will go over some of the different ways to serve legal documents, what goes into successful service, and how to pick the service method right for you.
What are the Ways to Serve Filed Documents?
For the purposes of this article, we are not discussing service of process. Serving, in this case, means sending documents (such as exhibits, pleadings, or motions) to any party other than the court in an already established case.
For these scenarios, there are three ways to serve documents:
- Personal Service: This term covers any service that involves serving documents in person to the intended recipient.
- Standard Service: This term involves any service that involves U.S. mail or delivery service such as FedEx.
- eService: This term covers any form of electronic delivery of documents, such as email or dedicated eService software.
How you serve legal documents will also vary depending on the rules of your jurisdiction. While standard service options like U.S. Mail service are generally the same everywhere, your eService options will vary based on a few factors. In order to file and serve simultaneously, you’ll need to choose a court-approved Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP). Consult the State Court’s website to choose from their approved list of EFSPs. Some Courts mandate just one eFiling and eService provider (like in Fairfax Circuit Court, where File & ServeXpress is the only allowed electronic provider), while other courts or jurisdictions provide multiple options to choose from for its filers.
File & ServeXpress offers a national eService platform, meaning our platform can be used to eServe in over 1,400 courts across the country.
Which Service Platform Should I Use?
We can’t tell you which service option is the best for you. But below are some questions that should help you figure out what you need from a service method.
Are You Serving via U.S. Mail or Delivery Service, eServing, or Both?
If you want to serve your document via U.S. mail, you can do so via a mail courier or other physical delivery method.
To electronically serve your document, you’ll need to vet eService providers and choose one based on the features and functionality that mean the most to you. One-time filers may opt for a simplified service, while frequent filers like paralegals or attorneys might opt for something with more features that will help them save time in the long run (especially if they are filing in high volumes).
You don’t have to choose between standard and electronic service. Many service providers, including File & ServeXpress, give you the option to simultaneously serve via U.S. mail and electronically.
If you plan on using simultaneous U.S. mail and eServe often, a platform that offers it through a single transaction will provide the best experience. In the long run, that will save you a lot of time.
How Many Case Parties are You Serving?
If you are only serving one party, you may be fine choosing the most basic electronic service platform option. However, if you are electronically serving more than one party or the same document in multiple cases, you’ll need an eService platform that can keep up.
File & ServeXpress comes with built-in multi-case filing and service features, so you can file and serve the same document(s) in up to 200 different cases at once. This feature is especially useful for mass litigation, where you can upload exhibits and file motions in multiple cases in just one transaction.
When you’re serving multiple case parties, it can be difficult to keep track of who has been served and when they have opened the document. File & ServeXpress eliminates the work of organizing and tracking your served documents by keeping a permanent log of your service transactions, with optional comprehensive read receipts to verify proof of service.
How Much Time Do You Have for Service?
Some service methods take longer than others. For example, delivering the documents via U.S. mail will take longer than sending an email. But other service methods are harder to judge.
In general, a dedicated service platform is the most time-efficient option for both standard service and eService. Instead of printing documents for the mail, you can serve every document to every party in a single transaction and let the provider take care of the legwork.
In some cases, email may seem like a more time-effective option, but eService through email can present its own set of problems. Document size limitations, lack of read receipts, and lessened security are just a few of the factors that could complicate your eService through email. Additionally, when you factor in inbox filters and firewall issues, documents can take longer to show up in an email inbox than on an eService platform.
If you opt to file to the court and serve the same documents, using a dedicated service provider that can do both simultaneously will be the most efficient option to save you time and effort.
Are You Looking for Features Beyond Service?
Email, standard mail, personal delivery, and every other service method will get the documents from point A to point B. But a dedicated service provider can add value before and after delivery. For example, File & ServeXpress is built with features specifically designed to make eService easier for filers everywhere:
- Verifiable proof of service through read receipts for both the notification email and documents themselves.
- Permanent, secure document storage on our Azure cloud, searchable by case ID, read status, and more.
- Concierge eService for guaranteed delivery before your deadline.
What is Your Budget?
Different service methods will have both direct and indirect costs.
For example, a dedicated service provider will likely charge a fee per transaction, paid immediately or at a monthly rate. This is a very direct cost. But most dedicated service providers have very few indirect costs for usage other than the time it takes for initial training.
On the other side of the spectrum is an option like personal delivery. Delivering documents yourself is $0, meaning there is no direct cost. But the indirect costs include the paper used to print the document, the ink, the gas used by the car to get to the destination, the time spent organizing and delivering the files, and more. It’s a cost that’s harder to track and varies depending on how you value your own time.
Email is a unique method in that it has no direct cost or indirect costs per transaction worth tracking. It is by far the cheapest service method at first glance. But where it can cost you is in the case of a data breach or unverifiable claims of non-service, and both events can take up a lot of your time and potentially direct budget. In short, email is an option with a very low budget floor, but a high budget ceiling if it goes wrong.
How do I Verify Proof of Service?
Successful service of filed documents means more than just delivering papers – you’ll need to be able to verify proper service took place, otherwise you are at risk of non-service of documents complaints before the court.
For standard service, the proof will vary depending on the location. But generally, a Proof of Service with the mailing address will work.
For eService, the best way to create a verifiable audit of service is to use a dedicated service platform. Dedicated software can record read receipts as verification of service, unlike most email systems. File & ServeXpress offers comprehensive read receipts for both the notification email and the actual served documents, so you have complete transparency on when your documents were delivered and opened. FSX users can also sort case documents by read status and quickly know what’s been served, delivered, and read across their entire caseload.
Are You Interested in Concierge Service?
Concierge eService may be a good option if you are part of a small law firm or an independent or inexperienced filer. File & ServeXpress’s Concierge eService allows you to save some time and let another professional serve the documents for you. Concierge eService options are pretty much exclusive to service providers, as they require an industry professional to oversee the process.
Concierge eService comes in handy in situations where you’ve got a heavy, hard-to-manage caseload, you’re running on a tight deadline, or you’re simply not confident in eServing on your own. To learn more about our Concierge eService features, visit our Concierge eService page or reach out to a representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for a Service Provider?
To eServe with File & ServeXpress, simply register for an FSX account to get started. From there, you can log in and start eServing on your own, or you can contact our support team to set up Concierge eService – our eFiling experts will handle every step of your eService for you.
Lastly, download our perfect eService checklist. This checklist reviews important steps to ensure seamless eService, including tips and tricks for getting the most out of File & ServeXpress.