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Enlighten Your Character and Build Trust in the Process Server Industry

Firefly’s Marketing Director revisits an essay by his great, great grandfather for lessons relevant to the reputation and future of our industry.

A process due for a change

As an associate legal service partner, we’re in the business of supporting attorneys in whatever gets their cases through the courts without a hiccup. But the most essential aspect of the service we provide also happens to be the most endemically vulnerable, and the most in need of some fundamental rethinking.

Defendants too often gain favor or delay cases by calling into question the procedural integrity of process servers and those in related services. That’s why the need for greater detail in reporting, better education, and more consistent performance is stronger than ever. We must protect our vulnerabilities by becoming better equipped to prove a higher standard in court. We must prove that one bad apple is not enough to spoil the whole bunch and that there are special process servers who work with integrity, courtesy, accountability, and perseverance.

Sadly, recent events captured in national and local media have been hurting this cause. We’ve seen example upon example of process serving firms caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar of “shortcutting”: sewer or gutter service, falsified affidavits, and a general failure to follow the rules. It’s a few steps back for the reputation of our industry and a shining cry for change.

Brilliance is in the basics

When you boil it down the root cause of the bad apple is exposed: there is a shortage of character. It’s a deficiency in ethical decision power as a direct result of handicapped principles. They may thrive for a time taking advantage of the low expectations many have of legal support agencies. But when they cut corners and are exposed, they hold us all back. It’s time for us to demand more from ourselves and our industry, to make a clean break from the era of low expectations and get back to some basic principles.

Cutting a clear path

An individual or organization without principles is like a ship without a rudder, blowing freely here and there with every wind. But those of real character naturally steer true and inspire trust. In fact, character may be defined as one of the greatest motive powers in the human world. Men and women of genuine heart command the spontaneous respect of those around them. It’s common to have confidence in them, to hold them to a higher esteem.

This is not a revelatory insight by any stretch. In a 1888 essay my great, great grandfather, M.B. Palmer, wrote, “Men of genius are admired, men of character, followed.” He was exploring the nature of character in broad terms. But it’s exactly the kind of broader thinking that we need to lead our industry to brighter and better days.

The building blocks of character

The Josephson Institute divides character into six pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. They describe the pillars as basic values that define ethical behavior. According to the six pillars, trusted character is identified by qualities like integrity. Integrious individuals are transparent and consistent. They act and speak according to their beliefs, making identical movements in public and in solitude. Honesty is another quality that builds trust in character. We naturally admire and rely on those who are routinely truthful, sincere and forthright. They can be expected to play by the rules, even without regulation.

Having character means keeping all of your promises. Promise keepers are obvious in their commitments and diligent in their efforts to fulfill them. Individuals of good character also demonstrate a dedication to excellence, accountability, and restraint. They lead by example and finish what they start, no matter how much effort it takes. They show ability to make future-focused decisions with clear vision and good judgment. They refuse to be satisfied with a status-quo performance.

Elevating the industry

Each of the above qualities, along with others like courtesy, tolerance, autonomy, equality, compassion, and gratitude, are elevations of character and deposits into the quality reputation of our industry. We need to remember that there is no action, however trivial, but has its train of consequences on our character. Every action, every thought, every feeling contributes to the education of our temper, our habits, and our understanding. It exercises an inevitable influence upon the acts of our future, and the health of our businesses.

In that same essay, my great, great grandfather also wrote, “Though the reputation of men of genuine character may be of slow growth, their true qualities cannot be wholly concealed … with patience and endurance they will eventually inspire the respect and command the confidence which they really deserve.” Likewise, our perseverance as individuals toward genuine character and clean, consistent performance is also the path to a collective, sustainable future as colleagues.

Being the leading light

“Live with wolves,” says the Spanish proverb, “and you will learn to howl.” Associating with persons wiser, better, and more experienced, on the other hand, is inspiring and invigorating. We correct our estimates by theirs and become partners in their wisdom. We profit by their experience, and learn not only what they have enjoyed, but also what they have suffered. This, too, was an idea my great, great grandfather held as true over a century ago. “Companionship with the wise and energetic,” he wrote, “never fails to have a valuable influence on the formation of character—increasing our resources, strengthening our resolves, elevating our aims, and enabling us to exercise greater dexterity and ability in our affairs.”

It’s clear there is an increasing need for virtuous process servers who care about improving the integrity of our industry, ensuring the satisfaction of our clients, and protecting the health of our businesses. For those of us at Firefly, the formula is pretty simple. Surround yourself with qualified people of good character, then hold onto them and give them your trust. We challenge our colleagues, competitors, and clients to do the same.

Benjamin Cox is the Marketing Director for Firefly Legal and a guest contributor to the ServeReport.

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