In our continuing series on learning more about process servers with ABC Legal, we meet Lee DeLoach. He’s a family man and a former marine with a college degree who came into this career the round-about way.
As many blue and white collared wage-earners have discovered, the career you start with isn’t necessarily the one you’ll have for life. After market changes in his management job, Lee decided to help a friend out as a process server while looking for a new job. However, that job never came and Lee ended up becoming a process server himself. He hasn’t looked back since. Lee is a top performing process server with ABC Legal and offers some sound advice, as well as a story on how a judge landed himself on the wrong side of the law.
Join me as I get to know more about Lee and his career as a process server in the southern states of Alabama and Mississippi.
Lee, tell us a little about yourself.
Lee: I’m a married man with five children, ages 14 to 31. I’ve been a process server for five years in Alabama and eastern Mississippi. I spent 6 years as a Marine, 4 in infantry and 2 in landing support. I have an Associates degree from Georgia Southern University, and have worked most of my life in sales and C-level management. Five years ago my job with a large chemical company ended due to market changes. At that time I began serving papers to help a buddy out until I found another job. As it turns out, I never had to find that job, as I excelled at this.
What does a typical serve look like?
Lee: A typical serve is simply approaching the door with documents in hand ringing the bell and asking for the defendant/recipient. Once they acknowledge self or co-residency, I let them know I’m delivering important documents. Most of the time they take them without any issue, actually 99% of the time there is no issue.
Lee DeLoach, Process Server with ABC Legal in Mississippi and Alabama
Do you provide other services besides process serving such as notary, investigations, etc?
Lee: I service a couple of law firms here in Mobile, AL as a staff investigator. I don't have a ton of time to spend on watching people late at night (due to ABC Legal workload) so most of my clients use me for depositions and process service. I specialize in hard to find individuals.
Do you have indicators when it might be a more difficult serve and how does this change your process?
Lee: In my area there are a lot of cars driven for years with dealer tags on them, if I see one in the drive, I can almost guarantee I am going to be lied to about the defendant. Not always... but most of the time. If they don't have a tag and they don't have insurance they are likely trying to hide.
How do you ensure your own safety as a routine practice?
Lee: I’m incredibly observant of the area when I serve. I always make sure if I enter a dead end street that I turn around and park facing the way out.
How are you managing during the pandemic, and what has been the most significant change during this time?
Lee: Social distancing was the biggest change. It was very difficult to get people to come out and pick up the papers as you waited, most were more ready to take them from you at the door. I’m managing ok now that business has picked back up, but it never really slowed too much for me as I serve for multiple lawyers and finance companies.
As technology plays more of a role, how has this impacted your job as a process server?
Lee: Technology has definitely made my job easier! Easier to document, easier to locate, easier to sign returns and easier to get paid.
How has the industry as a whole evolved since you started?
Lee: I started in November 2015, at that time courts were all over the place on what they wanted on returns. Now it's much easier to make a court happy with fewer differences, at least in Alabama. It feels as though private process servers are appreciated as being more efficient and important as well.
What is the most important thing for someone just starting out as a process server to know?
Lee: It's ok to be slow, just make sure you do it correctly. It will speed up soon enough and ALWAYS ask if you don't know.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Lee: Honestly, planning my route is my favorite, as it's the last thing you do before leaving to earn the income.
Lee: It used to be signing returns, but ABC Legal has taken 80% of that and made it easier-- thank you for that! Now, the least favorite part would be people who lie and don't answer the door, because it impacts your ability to do your job and your ranking as a process server! Ha.
Lee, what’s your ‘hardest lesson learned’?
Lee: Get out there early and get home late...
Ok, any tips for finding success as a process server--as well as a few do’s and don'ts?
Lee: Do be professional. Do develop a system of serving and keeping up with due times. Do plan your route the night before, have the papers printed and in the order of your route. When you get home sign your returns and print the next day's new jobs. Rinse and repeat.
Don't be rude. Don't be sloppy. (in appearance and paperwork)
I work off the principle of DTD or "Do The Diligence”. Such as, step next door and ask a neighbor, make note of the vehicle present, don't assume the doorbell works, knock also. Is the power on? Has the trash can moved since your last attempt? Are spider webs across the front door, if so there may be a back or side door that is used instead. Ask the landlord or property manager for help "so I don't have to bother your residents looking for someone that may have moved". Always treat the defendant or recipient respectfully.
Lee, tell us the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you. (As a process server of course)
Lee: I was contracted to locate and serve on a former judge in rural Alabama. He had a nickname and a reputation that preceded him, as well as served federal time for firearm charges. Nobody could find this guy. Long story short, I located him in a hunting cabin deep in the woods. When I went to the door his girlfriend answered and angrily said, "Stay here!”.
Next thing I hear is shuffling and slamming drawers in the kitchen. Then, a big 6'7" ill-favored gray haired wild man comes barreling out the door with a 12 inch Buck knife in his hand telling me to get off his property!! To which I replied, "No problem!”. I simply left the service on his grill beside him and left. Service, perfected.
Specific or notable regulations as a process server you must follow in your state?
Lee: Drop service had been allowed prior to this year, however that has changed in 2020, and it’s really at the discretion of the judge in certain courts.
As we see regulations unfolding in California regarding gig economy workers do you have an opinion on this (should freelance, gig workers be employees or freelance contractors) and what would the ideal scenario be from a process server perspective?
Lee: In my opinion, freelance and independent is the best scenario for process servers. I don't see how companies could service rural areas effectively using an 'employee model'. Servers I know don't simply serve for one company, but have multiple streams to 'drink' from. Perhaps in larger cities it could work, but not outside metropolitan areas.
Lee offers valuable, straight-forward advice. Simply put: do the right thing, be responsible, be prepared, be respectable and be reliable. And despite 99% of your job as a process server carrying on without too much notice, there’s always a chance you’ll end up serving process on the least likely of characters--perhaps even one you're used to seeing on the other side of the bench!
If you’re a process server with ABC Legal and are interested in sharing your experiences serving please reach out here. If you’re interested in becoming a process server with ABC Legal please visit our process server resource page here.
About ABC Legal Services
ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing company and is the official process server to the U.S. Department of Justice. Docketly is a subsidiary of ABC Legal, providing appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. ABC Legal’s applications are cloud-based and compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Our solutions and digital approach ensure process server partners, law firm customers, and their clients save valuable time and resources when serving legal notices safely and with maximum compliance, control, and transparency. ABC Legal is based in Seattle, WA, with more than 2,000 process servers throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in more than 75 countries. To learn more about ABC Legal, our solutions, and subsidiary company Docketly, visit www.abclegal.com.