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All process servers want steady and reliable work from law firms, corporations, and government entities, however, there is a growing market for pro se work. Pro se clients (self-represented litigants), may initially appear difficult to support and unprofitable as they are unfamiliar with the legal process, but ultimately, you are missing out on a growing opportunity.
If you are doing any sort of effective marketing, pro se clients will find you. Since pro se cases can often be a one-time service, many servers deem it unwanted business. However, pro se’s may only be growing in numbers as self-help legal companies are gaining in popularity. Overcoming the barrier to make pro se clients worthwhile is simply a matter of evaluating the expenses and effort to establish a system that makes them profitable.
If you don’t have an established system to deal with pro se clients, it may seem overwhelming with limited financial gain. However, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks to prove that working with pro se clients is less challenging than it may appear.
One of the easiest ways you can reduce repetitive and inefficient work is to create procedure outlines for your clients. Clearly state what you do, the standards, rates, number of attempts, and any other routine questions in a document that can be sent to all your clients. Definitively outlining the terms and timeline of the relationship will help establish expectations. Separate the documents into the types of clients you receive to allow for customization and specific clarification. Creating a tailored outline for each type of client, (e.g. out of state service, law firms, other process servers, and pro se clients) will help reduce the time you spend on the phone illustrating what is included in your service.
A procedural outline for pro se clients is particularly useful since they are the clients that typically have the most questions. If you provide the answers upfront, it will not only help the client but save you valuable time and effort.
Your standards should also be included on your website so that it is available to reference for individuals who find you online. The answers to those questions may also help you rank for searches related to process serving!
Often, pro se clients may need more support to understand the service of process or where their papers are located. It could be beneficial to provide them with your preferred method of contact and guaranteed response times. If an individual requires extensive support and is constantly calling, make it clear that your expertise and time are available for a fee, as legal support service advice is not included in your process serving charge.
Since pro se clients typically require more work, it is fair to charge appropriately. Therefore, charging 1.5 times your normal rates (or a rate to ensure you don’t lose money on the service) is a responsible way to keep your business profitable. As long as you provide competitive service quality, the extra charge will be justified for pro se clients who need a reliable process server.
It can be notoriously tricky to collect payment once papers are already served. Collecting payment before the service is complete ensures that you won’t be chasing down an individual. Since some individuals may be wary of prepayment, a good business practice is to clearly state what is included in your service, any guarantees, and expectations. Not sure what a prepayment form looks like? Take a look at an order form example.
Since pro se clients are not familiar with the legal procedure, they may need more status updates than a lawyer or paralegal. Providing status updates before a client contacts you will increase your client satisfaction and reduces frantic phone calls.
Status updates can create routine, repetitive work, so consider easing the burden by implementing a software that allows you to create reminders and provide automatic status updates. Many pro se clients want to work with reliable process servers who send out notifications about the location of their papers. Save yourself time by making status updates a standard for all your services and providing this information to them first. Through a process serving software such as ServeManager, you can easily email people when attempts are made, documents are ready, and service is successful!
Simply put, it is worthwhile to work with pro se’s because they are a large portion of clients and can bring in significant revenue. If proactive communication, efficient routines, techniques, and appropriate pricing are implemented correctly, process servers can find working with pro se clients easy and rewarding.
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