by Jamie Scott Blair, July 26, 2022
From 2009 up through 2016, I spent the majority of my time during the workweek earning money as a New York City process server. I had been brought into the industry by my cousin, who at the time had been struggling to keep his auto parts business profitable. I found myself in similar shoes, having been at the helm of a construction equipment company that saw diminishing profits and increasing costs year after year. Although I prided myself on a full-time operation in which I dedicated myself to making sure my customers had their product when they needed it – I had even developed a cargo van delivery route that covered 11 counties in the New York City metropolitan area – I just could not compete with the buying power and fleet resources of my much larger competitors. What followed was a deluge of inventory stagnation and increasing vehicle expenses that forced me to diversify my income stream if I was to continue making it in New York.
Enter the world of legal process service. My survival instinct helped me to make the adjustment: I went from providing a product my customers wanted to delivering bad news on lawsuit defendants that someone else’s clients wanted. Having had an entrepreneurial background, I was fortunate enough to work smart and figure out a system involving when it was advisable to drive to these residential or commercial locations or simply hop around by bus or subway (although a good deal of my earnings would be eaten up by car expenses, car insurance premiums and, of course, gasoline).
It was during this time that I learned about the different types of affidavits germane to service of process, the three most common being affidavits of service, affidavits of attempted service, and affidavits of due diligence. I made my bones as a notary public beginning in 2012, roughly three years after starting out in the industry. This was due to the suggestion of someone who ran a process service agency and who had been a de facto mentor to me for the majority of the time I was working in this particular industry. Before I learned about the numerous ways one could earn a living performing notary work, getting my commission was merely a means to convenience, i.e. being able to notarize my colleagues’ affidavits of service, just like they – as notaries – would be able to notarize mine.
Flash forward to the present day, where I now make a living as a mobile notary and receive several requests each month to notarize such affidavits. Before making a commitment to meet with a potential client concerning the notarization of this type of document, I make it a point to find out whether service has already been effectuated. Why? On more than one occasion, I had to find something out the hard way: many people with little or no experience in the world of due process have no idea how to properly file this type of affidavit. In fact, many times a client will present an affidavit of service to be notarized before there has been an attempt to even serve the defendant or respondent in the commenced action!
It is in this instance that I will usually have to educate the client about certain criteria that must be met; some need to learn that if they are a party to the action (such as the plaintiff or petitioner) they must have a third-party – preferably a licensed and bonded process server as I had been for eight years – attempt and eventually (ideally) effectuate service on the individual who is to be served. It goes without saying that pre-filling in and notarizing an affidavit before service is completed constitutes fraud, and my clients always appreciate someone like me who will take the time to ensure these points are not overlooked.
I’ve been able to save both myself and my potential client time wasted by clearing this up before scheduling an appointment. I would be remiss if I had to charge someone because they did not know better. Rather, that person appreciates the education and is that much more willing to pay for my services knowing they are being looked after and guided by an above-board professional who wants to get it done right the first time.
In conclusion, I look back on my process serving years as a time in which I learned to adapt, evolve, and ultimately emerge a smarter and more resilient person. I most likely got out before things could have gotten a bit too confrontational (95% of the time, people would not be happy that I was paying them a visit for this purpose) but the knowledge I gained about the proper way to deal with notarizing affidavits of service will benefit both myself and my clientele for years to come.