In a valiant quest to be a paperless lawyer, I strive to limit the hard copies I produce. As such, if at all possible, I try to email service documents to my overseas associates– process servers, solicitors, bailiffs, etc. for printing in their offices. Simply put, even at the end of 2017, physical pages must still be placed into a defendant’s hand (or dropped at a recalcitrant defendant’s feet). A PDF simply won’t do (although it’s coming). The number of places in which the person actually serving the documents can print them is significant, and it saves reams of paper, gallons of fuel, and a great many headaches. But there are still many countries that still require Hague service requests to be submitted in hard copy, with translations, in duplicate. This delights Georgia Pacific and FedEx for obvious reasons.
But those reams of paper and gallons of fuel and numerous headaches can be saved by simply limiting the volume of pleadings submitted. I argued earlier this year that the cost to serve an offshore defendant under the Hague Service Convention requires brevity and, where possible, the avoidance of exhibits. This past weekend, I processed a series of service requests in which the total cost for translation reached into the six-figure range, and the printing run was counted in reams, rather than pages. The requests were going to Japan and China– two countries where hard copy submissions are still mandatory.*
And they could have been reined in with incorporation by reference instead of “attached hereto as Exhibit Z.”
Litigators, remember– we don’t get paid by the word. Translators do.
Remember that FRCP 4 requires service of the summons and the complaint (which includes exhibits). End of list. If local rules compel you to serve a Cover Sheet or a judge’s standing orders or a brochure on the court’s mandatory ADR program, then they”’ have to be served. You cannot control that. But those exhibits– those pesky exhibits– are well within your control, so keep notice pleading in mind. FRCP 8 requires a short, plain statement of the claim and the relief granted. No poetry, no scientific treatise, no voluminous recitation of facts.
Keep it short and save the world.
* Fortunately, the Chinese appreciate technology a bit more than their island neighbors to the east. China submissions need not be duplicated– at least not in hard copy. Small favors…
UPDATE, May 18, 2018: See How to Serve Process in China… important updates, part two. The PRC has gone entirely electronic for Hague submissions!