I fielded an interesting phone call last week. It seems the caller rather enjoyed the august pages of my blog—thanks to a quick Google search on how to serve process in Italy—and rang me up to make sure he was doing things the right way. Excitedly, he told me that he’d gotten his documents translated, just like I suggested. He said he’d identified the correct Hague Central Authority, just like I suggested. The paperwork was all pulled together and ready to go—but he was a bit uncertain.
As a courtesy (which I’m always happy to provide), I told him to email me the documents and I’d take a look at them for nothing. I’d only charge him if I saw glaring errors that needed to be fixed. After I looked at them, I gave him a thumbs-up and reassured him.
Ye did it right, counsel.
“Whew. Good,” he said. “That would have been a huge chunk of my life wasted if I hadn’t.”
How many hours do you have into it? I asked.
“Sheesh. At least ten. And I’m still not done.”
Hmmm. You could’ve saved a whole lot of heartache and just had me handle it for you.
“Oh, you’re admitted in New York, too?”
Um… no. Why?
“Well, don’t you have to be admitted in New York to do this on a New York case?”
Nope. Just admitted somewhere. I’ve got the Show Me State.
Poor fellow was incredulous. “You mean I could have just hired you and saved myself all the trouble?”
It isn’t necessary to be admitted in the court hearing the case to sign a Hague Request. It is necessary to be a licensed attorney, but the U.S. declaration to Article 5(3) of the Hague Service Convention says any attorney can do it. Any.
Yes, counsel. That means you, too. I’ve posted several times that service abroad is something that you can do yourself. But that doesn’t mean you have to—or even should. After all, you wouldn’t serve process yourself in Paris, Texas, so why should you handle service yourself in Paris, France?
You wouldn’t send your junior associate to serve a defendant in Queens, so why would you have that same junior associate worry about serving in Queensland, Australia?
Short answer: don’t. Just outsource it. To illustrate, I don’t represent DWI defendants. Yes, I’m officially qualified, but it would take hours of research, and questions to the various listservs I subscribe to, just to figure out the choreography of the hearing. And that’s before I even delve into the substantive law. Fortunately, when my favorite aunt calls me to say that my (idiot) cousin Ernie* blew .11 on his way home from the bar, I have friends I can send her to. That is, friends I can send Ernie to.
Short rationale: it will save you a whole bunch of time, and it will save your clients a whole bunch of money. Service in Vienna, Virginia is something you hire someone else to handle… it makes sense to do likewise in Vienna, Austria.
If you have overseas defendants or overseas witnesses or you need to enforce a U.S. judgment overseas, give us a call… it’s what we do. **
* Ernie is an idiot on his own merits. This condition is not a predicate to his DWI charge, but it certainly makes the situation worse.
** Finally, I get to work William Shatner into a post. I celebrate his entire catalog (even T.J. Hooker), but Shatner’s best work is when he’s lampooning Shatner.