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When Should Process Servers Turn Down a Job?

  • December 19, 2022
  • by Stephanie Irvine
  • Articles

When Should Process Servers Turn Down a Job?

Process servers, who often work as contractors or operate their own process serving business, are usually looking for ways to find more work, not the opposite. While many are looking for process serving work, there are some occasions in which a process server can — and should — turn down a process serving job because it is simply not worth the pay. Keep reading to learn about these circumstances in which a process server would say no to a serve.


No one should work for free, and when a client is not paying, a process server has every right to turn down future jobs. When asked what to do in these situations, process server Anthony Dunne commented, “Plain and simple. An email: pay your bill or I am done.” To avoid having to turn down jobs in the future due to nonpayment, many process servers require payment upfront to avoid issues with getting paid for their work.

Too Demanding

Let’s face it, there are clients who are very needy. They want to know what time a server starts their day, when they attempted service, what happened, why it wasn’t served if service couldn’t be effectuated on the first attempt, when they will be making the next attempt, and every other step along the way. While many process servers take pride in being communicative and open with their clients, some clients, especially those who are unfamiliar with the process, take advantage of this and interrupt the workflow, in some cases even inhibiting a process server from being able to do their job.

When a client or pro se customer begins logging more hours than the job is worth, it may be time to cut ties. Process server Sheila Krebs explained that she once had a client who was too demanding. She wrote him a letter and advised that “he should find a different, bigger company” that could better serve his needs. Krebs explained that the client did move on, but “One day, he let me know that he preferred me over the company he now had. I smiled and said I was too busy to add him back to my list.” Krebs’ experience shows that sometimes turning down one client can open the door to more profitable business.

Beyond A Server’s Ability

While most lawyers know the limits of what a process server can do, some pro se clients do not. Because process servers are not the police or a lawyer, there are certain actions that process servers cannot do. Process server Ron Rugen explained that an instance in which he would drop a client occurs, “Whenever someone representing themselves just takes too much time and is wanting you to serve as a legal advisor.”

If a client is expecting a process server to go outside their job capabilities, it might be in their best interest to drop the client. Of course, a server can advise them of what they can and cannot do, but in some cases, even that action may eat up too much time that a server could otherwise use to make service attempts. Additionally, there may be some cases where a client needs service effectuated where a process server (individually or their business) does not work or is not licensed to work; in those cases, the process server can either refer the job out to a server who is able to take it or turn it down to not jeopardize the service.

Personal Conflict

Let’s face it — there are some people in this world who simply get under another’s skin. While most professionals are able to put their differences aside to get the job done, there are some instances in which it interferes with the server’s ability to get the job done. When a client is causing stress, and interfering with a server’s ability to complete their job (or other jobs for that matter), it may be time to move on. Additionally, if a server is related to or a party to a case, they may not be able to legally serve process depending on the state’s laws. In those cases, it would be in the best interest of the process server to refer the job to someone else.

Too Busy

Some process servers are very successful, and as a result, they have a significant amount of work keeping them busy. However, serving process can sometimes be on a tight deadline. If a server is unable to complete a job in a timely manner, it is best if they turn down the job or refer it to a trusted colleague.

Instincts First

Every once in a while, a server may be presented with a job that triggers his or her instincts that it would not be safe to complete the job. Whether it is a dangerous defendant, a crime-laden area, or some other reason setting off mental alarm bells, no serve is worth personal endangerment. There will always be other jobs, so servers should not be afraid to pass on jobs in which they could be in danger.

Final Word: Make It Worth It

When (or if) a process server chooses to turn down a job, is solely up to their personal discretion why and how they say no. Some process servers recommend that others choose options that may soften the blow to the client. Process server Lee Fraser explained that “I have never ‘turned down’ a process serving job or client. I have priced myself out of jobs intentionally, though. You never know when a burned bridge by refusing work with one client will affect your ability to work for another. You have to remember [that] many attorneys went to law school together, may be friends, and travel in the same circles. While they are adversarial in court, they hang out and get drinks together when they get off the clock.”

In a similar sentiment, process server Jaqueline Balikowski offered that she doesn’t hesitate to say no when it’s not a good fit. She explained when those instances come up, which could include a client that is too demanding, a liability, or simply because the client is bothersome, she will “generally say something along the lines of ‘I don't think my firm is best suited to serve your needs. You will be better assisted by another firm.’ No additional explanation. I wish them the best and end the conversation.” She also offered that some clients warrant an increase in prices; if they stay, their work is easier to tolerate because she is paid accordingly, and if they find a new company, it isn’t a problem.

Overall, servers should know their worth, capabilities, and when it’s the right time to turn down a job.

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