What Is Life Like As a Process Server?

Process servers sometimes need to watch and wait patiently.
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A day in the life of a process server -- someone who delivers legal documents to people involved in court cases -- can be many things but is rarely boring. Though a male-dominated field, serving papers attracts its share of women too. Some work with partners and some work on their own, but all must be aware of safety and the law.

The Basics

    A process server hand-delivers court summonses and subpoenas to present evidence in court trials. The law requires that a disinterested party deliver such documents, so law firms often hire process servers as their proxy. A server generally meets with clients to discuss a job, then seeks the person to be served. He knocks on home doors or visits the workplace of the person to be served and hands over the documents. Once he's delivered, the server files paperwork with his client.

Harder Cases

    Not everyone sought by the courts makes it easy for a process server to do the job. Some people avoid answering the door, some refuse to accept the papers and some abandon their last known residence. This can compel the server to be more forceful and simply drop the papers at a person's feet or, in more extreme cases, track down -- or skip trace -- those who have left no discernible trail. Some servers resort to mailing papers.

The Money

    Servers on average earn between $35 and $100 per case, depending on the location, the nature of the case and the difficulty of serving. Some firms pay mileage or skip-tracing costs in addition to service fees. Earnings reflect the number of jobs a server takes, so annual income varies greatly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, many top earners exceed $70,000 per year.


    Many women who enter process serving work with partners, sometimes their husbands. Some, however, go it alone, and those who do must be especially mindful of safety when serving unwelcome news to strangers on their turf. A respectful, sympathetic attitude can make serving easier, but some people threaten or take their anger out on the messenger. Some homes have dogs protecting residents. Servers who work alone sometimes carry sidearms to help protect them from threatening situations and neighborhoods.

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