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Why Use Private Process Server Instead of Sheriff?

If you want to serve court documents to your debtor, you may be presented with two options by your lawyer. You have the option of using a sheriff or hiring a private process server. One reason why courts push using sheriff is that sheriffs work for the court and generate income for the county. However, a sheriff is not likely the best person to serve your legal papers. Private process servers provide a higher level of service, speed and greater knowledge of the law surrounding service of process. For law firms who utilize the sheriff for service of process, their clients would be better served if they use a private process server. Here’s what you need to know to decide.

Method of Service

When it comes to serving papers, both sheriffs and private process servers must adhere to the same set of rules. The only significant distinction is that the sheriff has access to property that private process servers may not. Citizens, not law enforcement, function as private process servers. As a result, if trespassing signs are shown, they are unable to enter private property.

What Process Servers Do?

Private process servers deliver court documents to individuals and companies named in the documents. During this procedure, they must adhere to a number of rules and regulations. They must identify the person being served and guarantee that they receive proper service. It involves a lot more than merely knocking on a door and giving up documents.

Process servers provide different papers depending on the case. A process server may be required by your lawyer to serve a summons, a lawsuit, or a petition.

Why Just Process Servers?

Private process servers aren’t the only people who can deliver papers and court documents. The sheriff’s department and deputies can also serve documents in most jurisdictions. However, there are numerous reasons why the sheriff’s department should not be used. For starters, it can be more expensive than using a private process server. Second, the sheriff’s department will not prioritise court document service, and a private process server will provide faster service.

Benefits of Hiring Private Process Servers |

#1 Finding Missing People

If a party to a lawsuit cannot be located at the address indicated on the papers, your case may be delayed significantly. Sheriff’s departments do not have the time or resources to track down people who need to be served. If this is the case, the sheriff may mark the papers as undeliverable and return them to the court. This could result in your lawsuit being dismissed or the judge ordering alternative service.

If you hire a private process server, they’ll have a lot of resources and tools to help you find persons who have gone missing. They can search down missing people and serve them quickly using a variety of ways, including social media investigations and private investigators.

#2 Cost

The cost of hiring a private process server and the sheriff’s department fee is frequently quite similar. You might even pay a little more to have your documents delivered by the sheriff. Instead, of focusing on the price, consider the value. Who has a better chance of getting your papers served quickly? A private process server is most likely the answer.

#3 Speed of service

Service of process is the core task of private process servers, and it is their primary emphasis day in and day out. Sheriffs are vital to our legal system, but with so many high-level obligations, process service typically falls to the bottom of the priority list. As a result, sheriff’s service can take weeks or even months!

Sheriffs are usually able to make attempts between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. when they are on the job. The problem is that this occurs at a time when the people being served are also working. Private process servers will try service outside of typical business hours, such as at 7 am or 7 pm, and will do so more rapidly.

#4 Customer Service

Sheriffs are not employed by a company. When you need an update on a service, the sheriff does not have to respond immediately. You can expect a quick response to all of your questions, including update requests, from private process servers that run a competent company and want to keep their customers pleased.

You’ll need a responsive process server if you need to postpone a trial or move to extend discovery if the service hasn’t been performed. Clients in marital or personal injury cases, where the issue is particularly personal, want to know what’s going on. Clients of legal firms will have two very different experiences whether they have to wait a week to find out where things stand vs if they can get an answer right away.

#5 Knowledge of Laws

58% of the legal professionals surveyed believed process servers were more knowledgeable than the sheriffs, with just 13% thinking the sheriff knew more.

Knowing the legislation and rules, as well as staying up to date on any changes or modifications, is essential for a private process server’s job. Process service is simply one of the numerous responsibilities that sheriffs have. A sheriff who is also responsible for evictions, warrants, prisoner transports, and traffic control cannot be expected to understand the subtleties of every sort of service and circumstance.

Why Not Registered Mail?

If you wonder, why you can’t send papers by registered mail. After all, you get a signed card that it was received, right? Unfortunately, anyone taking one of those little green cards can sign it, not just the intended recipient. This allows the recipient to claim they were not served, which can significantly derail or delay a case. This is why the courts have restrictions that only certified process servers and sheriff’s departments are permitted to serve papers.


When choosing between a sheriff or a private process server, take into consideration the many positives of moving a case along faster including increased client satisfaction and a shortened timeline. Being able to follow the service and be apprised of status updates provides peace of mind, as does relying on a process server who is knowledgeable of all the applicable rules and laws.

If you have legal documents that need to be served, we can help. Contact Shergroup today for more information or to get started.

Shergroup has extensive experience in process serving. We’ve represented clients in all 105 postcodes in England and Wales. Our agents are well-versed in local legislation pertaining to the successful service of court documents in the jurisdictions they serve. We can even help you collect on the claim, which you’ll eventually need your process server to do, so we can handle the entire process from claim to the collection.

Call the skilled team at Shergroup to explore the best strategy for you if you are ready to bring a claim against someone, whether an individual or a firm, for commercial or personal reasons.

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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