SERVICE OF PROCESS: WHAT’S NEXT?
An event the scale of a global pandemic leaves a mark—on everything. With the world continuing to reopen, now is a critical time to understand how the litigation landscape has been altered.LEARN MORE
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Through the lens of service of process (SOP)—the notice to a party of the commencement of legal action—we’ll look at what has changed, what’s still evolving, and what will likely never be the same. Our goal is to help you evaluate your organization’s legal toolbox and help ensure that you’re ready for what comes next.
Disclaimer: Please be advised that this recorded webinar has been edited from its original format, which may have included a product demo. To set up a live demo or to request more information, please complete the form to the right. Or if you are currently not on CSC Global, there is a link to the website in the description of this video. Thank you.
Tarik: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, "Service of Process: What's Next?" My name is Tarik Hopkins, and I'll be your moderator.
Joining us today is John Bloxom and Paul Matthews. John is the Vice President of Product Management at CSC. He collaborates with customers, prospects, and business stakeholders to shape CSC's product development vision and strategy for several of its business lines. Paul is a senior service manager at CSC. In his role, he leads the CSC Litigation Management Operations Team, which is the team responsible for handling all service processes received by CSC.
And with that let's welcome John and Paul.
John: Thanks, Tarik.
Paul: Thank you very much, Tarik. So, before we dive in here, we'll just kind of give you a rough idea of what the agenda is, and then we're going to go right into the presentation.
Today, we are going to give you a quick overview of CSC. Then we're going to talk about just some basic level setting about some terms we're going to be using throughout the presentation. We're going to look back at the last 18 months and all that has come along with that, talk about what's happening as businesses try to figure what it looks like to return to their physical offices, talk about some of the resources that you have available to you, you know, as you navigate that process. We'll also be talking about CSC's SOP ecosystem and some of the solutions that we offer within it. And, ultimately, we're going to wrap up today with a demo of some of those solutions, as well as an opportunity for you to ask any questions that we can answer for you today about service of process and some of the trends that we're seeing in that space.
So CSC is a worldwide organization. We support more than 10,000 law firms, including most of the prominent firms in the United States. We are serving over 180,000 corporate customers throughout the world. We are offering services that help protect 65% of the 100 Best Global Brands, including 7 of the top 10. We're headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, but we have offices worldwide. And we are currently serving more than 90% of the Fortune 500 with our services across these different business lines.
Okay. So, before we dive in further, there's a couple of terms that I'm going to be using frequently throughout our presentation today, and I want to make sure that we're all thinking of them in the same way. So service of process or SOP has a very strict textbook definition related to the delivery of notice to a party at the commencement of legal action. We'll be using a slightly broader and more practical definition today, which will also include things like wage garnishments, subpoenas, and bankruptcy and foreclosure filings.
And then another term that we'll use throughout the presentation is registered agent. I think while that term is familiar to most of you, just to, again, make sure we're all thinking of it in the same way, a registered agent is an individual or business appointed within each jurisdiction to receive service of process on behalf of other entities that are qualified to do business in that state.
So, with that in mind, I'm going to take you all on a little bit of a journey, and likely it's a journey that you're all too familiar with. If you've ever had the joy of participating in a business continuity or a disaster recovery exercise for your organization, you probably got to join in a tabletop walkthrough at some point, where the person running the exercise presents you with a minor incident and then you have to describe how you and your team would react to it and keep your world operational during that incident. A common practice in these exercises is to keep layering on new and different complications, you know, effectively kicking out one leg of your chair at a time to find out the weaknesses and limits to your continuity plan.
So the last year, most likely the last year and a half has probably felt a lot like that. You know, we start out with a basic scenario. One of your offices has to close temporarily because of a fast-spreading virus. Okay. Now, what if it turns out that it's affecting multiple locations, and it turns out it's not just your company, your customers, and your vendors that are also affected? Now, it's nationwide, worldwide. Now, the local governments need everyone to lock down in their homes for a few weeks. Then it turns into might be a little longer than that. We all realize things aren't going away quickly.
Then we now layer in everyone has to wear masks, keep their distance from each other. You can't touch your groceries. The supply chains are now under stress, so we can't get basics like toilet paper. We have testing to detect the virus, but those tests are hard to come by at first.
While this is happening, we all turn to everything is getting delivered to our homes, and that puts stress on some of the normal delivery mechanisms. So the mail isn't moving the way it should. It's not moving as fast and dependably as it has in the future (sic).
Now, if that's not enough, let's layer in wildfires, protests, civil unrest, supercharged political divide. Oh, yeah, your kids are going to be attending school from your kitchen table.
We have vaccines, but they're hard to get at first. Things start to look better for a while. We start to try to solve the problem of how we get everyone back to the office. Hotspots keep popping up. The trend lines keep changing shape. Not everyone is getting vaccinated. Not everyone is interested in getting vaccinated. Not everyone is interested in returning to the office.
Are we having fun yet? That's, you know, what the last year and a half has felt like. You know, the good news is if you're on the call today, you survived, you made it through that process, and, again, you're still trying to figure out kind of how you get back to whatever normal is going to be.
If this was an actual business continuity exercise, you would be staring daggers at the person running this session and probably banging your head on the table. And again, that is now our shared new normal. So now that we have that cheerful intro and background out of the way, we're going to take a collective deep breath and talk through some of the things that have happened in the service of process environment over the last year and a half.
So, as I mentioned in the previous slide, one of the things that was impacted during this time is just the simple delivery of mail. So in March 2020, most businesses sent all or some of their staff home, and then we were realized that most of them wouldn't or couldn't come back to the office for the foreseeable future. We had to figure out how to make our temporary workarounds and our small contingents of work-from-home employees our new standard operating procedure. And we had to do it quickly, and we were trying to do it seamlessly.
And then I think we all started to realize all the ways that we were dependent on some of those people sitting in physical offices. One of the most critical dependencies is something we likely took for granted, again, the mail, that thing that just kind of shows up every day, gets sorted, and then distributed throughout the office. It's one of the most basic things that happens in almost every office around the world, and it's something that is hard to do once your team and the team that handles that mail sorting and distribution are not located in the same place or where some of that team can't even come into the office.
So, again, we have to figure out what do we do if there's no one there to receive it and no one there to sort it. What if there's no one in the office to distribute it to? So when you find yourself in these situations, there's truly only a couple of different options. You know, there's lots of nuance to these options, but at a high level, you can try to stop the mail from coming. At best, that's a temporary and limited solution and not something that most of us can realistically do.
The reality is that, you know, while there's lots of things that come through the mail that are junk and that can be ignored, that is also still a method that lots of critical documents are transmitted, especially when we, you know, talk about things in terms of the world of service of process. So you're realistically going to have to figure out one or both of the other options, which is either redirecting it to some place you do have staff, or finding some way to, with minimal staff, digitize that and distribute it throughout your network.
So it's hard to think of any of this as a silver lining. But, you know, in the early stages of the pandemic, most streams of mail, most streams of service of process slowed down a little bit, and that gave us an opportunity to, you know, figure things out with slightly less volume coming our way. Things like wage garnishments, foreclosures, evictions, obviously due to, you know, a wide range of things that happened over the last 18 months, those things slowed down or stopped entirely.
But not everything stopped. Some service of process, you know, was unrelenting over the last 18 months. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, workers' compensation claims rose by 35% in 2020 over the prior year. June and July totals nearly doubled the monthly averages from 2019. And that trend was mirrored in nearly every state.
According to a report that was generated by Littler Mendelson, since March 12th, 2020, there have been 2,879 lawsuits, including 227 class actions, against employers due to alleged labor and employment violations related to the coronavirus. If you're in the health care, manufacturing, retail, or hospitality fields, or any of the fields that support those industries, you were more likely to have been on the receiving end of some of this increased volume that was a direct product of what was happening out in the world.
In the last year, at the height of the pandemic, we also saw that the plaintiff's bar got very creative and, quite frankly, very innovative. They took something that had long been an obstacle for plaintiffs, the arbitration process, and a small number of plaintiff firms were able to basically weaponize that by filing in huge quantities on behalf of plaintiffs with similar claims.
So, again, for most of us, stopping the mail wasn't an option. While it slowed down for a little bit, you know, in many cases, whatever was slowing down was replaced by something else. And probably well before we're completely back to a state of anything we would describe as normal, those volumes are going to continue to return to pre-pandemic levels. And so we still need to have solutions that help us with that redirecting and digitizing of documents.
So in the world of CSC customers, CSC offers a solution to that. We have a direct SOP upload portal, which allows customers to drop anything they've received directly in their headquarters or any of their branches. They can basically digitize that locally, upload it into our portal. And from there, CSC staff will take over collecting data, organizing that information, and delivering it out into the customer's network. So, in those cases, we can handle some of that distribution for you. Again, that presupposes that you've got at least a minimum staff onsite to do that, to get those documents into a digital format.
CSC has also worked with many of its customers to redirect delivery of direct SOP from their individual offices to CSC's branches throughout the United States. And, you know, that has helped a lot of our customers who, you know, were either understaffed or unstaffed entirely within their physical offices. So CSC has tried to, you know, help find innovative and immediate solutions for our customers where possible so that while they're trying to figure out just how to manage their interaction with their staff and making sure things don't fall through the cracks, we can take some of that labor from their side of the equation over to our side.
Our offices needed to remain open. We have too many customers to support for that not to be the case. So redirecting to our locations was a good solution for a lot of our customers.
So, as we talked about, during the pandemic, most of us sent just about everyone home, and anyone left in the office might, at any time, have to leave immediately in quarantine for weeks due to actual or potential exposure to someone who had contracted the virus. It might have been fine to come into the office one day and then not the next based on the constantly shifting local rules and guidance. And with that kind of variability and volatility, we had to be able to accommodate working from anywhere without sacrificing our ability to collaborate and without losing line of sight to critical matters. So while having your dog barking in the background of a conference call was forgivable, missing a critical response date for service of process, missing hearings, not getting your answers in on time, those things were just as damaging as ever.
I think during the last 18 months, most organizations have realized that they'll never return to the exact same rigid, mostly in-office footprint for their teams. Most organizations are instead favoring flexible models that help keep work happening no matter, you know, what's happening out in the world. And a lot of organizations are actually embracing this as an opportunity to rethink how they operate, where they operate, you know, where it's critical to have a physical presence, where things can be done remotely, which types of jobs in their organization thrive working remotely, which absolutely, you know, fail working remotely. I think we've all had to assess that and decide, you know, how do we either take advantage of the situation, how do we adjust for the situation.
Whatever the case for your individual organization, the last year should have taught us that, above all, you know, we need to be prepared for everything from the very mundane to the completely unimaginable. And honestly, at the end of the day, the tools that you use need to support all of those modes seamlessly. So, again, for CSC customers, we have a collection of service of process related solutions that can be used individually or in combination to really help set our customers up to be able to work anywhere.
So starting with CSC's SOP Manager Solution, this allows you to aggregate and distribute your documents automatically. You can also expand or reassign matters when necessary. So, you know, if suddenly, you know, a person who's normally handling a certain type of matter is unavailable for an unknown or long period of time and you need to quickly shift their work volume somewhere else, working digitally and working within a space built for collaboration is critical to that being a successful transition for your team to make.
Our tool also gives you line of sight to who's assigned and handling each item, and, more importantly, it provides you the capability to, on a high level, make sure that everything is being handled. So, again, some things that are easy to do when you're side-by-side with your team are much more difficult to do when you're all sitting, you know, in your home offices or at your kitchen tables, or some people are in the office and some people are at home. So having a single shared workspace where you have that line of sight and visibility is absolutely critical.
You know, we understand that, you know, that has always been a critical need, but never more so than over the last 18 months. And while sharing content is very easy in SOP Manager, we want to make sure that that doesn't require you to give up control or security. So everything in our systems are access-controlled. You have finite control over who can see and access and contribute information into your SOP Manager account. For those items that are not handled within SOP Manager, we also have an API that allows our customers to integrate the data and documents coming through CSC with other downstream systems.
So, again, having the right tools that really are agnostic to whether you're sitting in an office or sitting at home, or whether your team is a hybrid of both those approaches, having tools that, you know, work well within that, you know, ever-changing and more dynamic environment, it's going to be a critical contribution to whether you can successfully navigate the rapidly changing world that we've experienced over the last 18 months and likely we'll continue to experience into the future.
So I think, you know, going back to that notion of the business continuity exercise, I think every organization has a plan for the happy path, where things go as they're supposed to. Better organizations have plans that allow them to adjust their mode of operation to fit expected challenges. Still better organizations have plans that expect a little bit of the unexpected. But I think the best organizations in the world, those that have been most successful in navigating, you know, these rapid changes, I think these are the organizations that have all of those plans, but they also have a plan for how they'll handle things when you get to the last page of your plan and there's no more plan left.
I think, during the pandemic, I found myself revisiting a lot of movies and television shows that I hadn't seen or thought about in years. And I've noticed a pattern and I don't know if this is my subconscious trying to sort some things out. But whether it's Tom Hanks in "Cast Away," the crew on the ground in "Apollo 13," Richard Dean Anderson's resplendent mullet on an episode of "MacGyver" from the late '80s, or binge watching the latest season of "Alone" and seeing a homesteader from Alaska survive in a remote part of British Columbia, I'm fascinated by the way that people solve problems. In all those cases, all those things that I just mentioned, you can see people figuring out how to solve problems with the resources and the tools that they have in front of them.
And even when those tools aren't normally used for that purpose, they're able to, you know, kind of understand the range of capabilities that they have, and they're able to shape a process and a solution that fits the problem that they're confronted with. Not necessarily the problems they planned for, but the actual problems that they've got to deal with.
So, in a business setting, you know, when we talk about the tools that you have available to you, it generally comes down to three main categories. You've got your team, you've got the technology that your team uses, and you have the vendors that you choose to partner with, so the sort of extension of your team. So it's important to think of what you have in your toolbox and what you want in your toolbox. What kinds of tools will be the most useful to you?
You know, when I think of the right kind of team, the team that I want to surround me, I want them to be multi-skilled, I want them to be creative problem-solvers, and I want them to care, I want them to be dedicated to the outcomes that we're aiming at.
When we look at technology, you know, as I've kind of referenced a couple times, you want that technology to be incredibly flexible. You want it to be able to work the way you need to work, not the way that it tells you you have to work. You want it to be integrated. So you want the data you have in one place to be available where you need it. So you want those things to be connected where it makes sense. And with that flexibility and that connectivity, you can't give up security. The information that we all handle from day-to-day, whether it's service of process or anything else that comes across our desk, there's, you know, a level of privacy and security that we've always got to keep in mind. And so you can't give those things up just to get to that flexibility and that connectivity.
And then finally, I know when we look for vendors, we are looking for people that we can trust, so people that have a good reputation in the industry that they work in, that are experts, that know their domain space better than anyone else, and who are committed. So the same way I need dedication from the team that I hire and that works around me, I need that same level of dedication from, you know, the partners that we choose to work with.
So, you know, again, if the last year's taught us anything, and hopefully way it's taught us lots of things, but if it's taught us anything relative to business, it's that we need to build for flexibility and adaptability. You need technology that lets us work when and how we need to work, and we want partners that are going to help us prepare, react, and adapt.
Again, the solutions you see at the bottom of the slide, this is the sort of ecosystem that CSC provides. And our goal is to make sure that we are positioned to handle our customers from the mundane, everything's predictable, day-to-day stuff, all the way through someone has kicked our chair out from under us and we've got to figure out how to stay on our feet.
So CSC's combined SOP-related solutions are aimed at supporting our customers at every step of the way as they manage their service of process. No matter the size or complexity of your organization, we've tried to design our solutions to meet you where you are, but also anticipate where you might need to go. They're intentionally flexible, and they're supported by a dedicated team that has experience working with businesses of all sizes.
As I mentioned at the front end of the call, we're going to go through a demo of some of these solutions. My colleague, John Bloxom, is going to help us with that. But before we turn things over to John, we have one additional poll question that we'd like to have you all answer.
Tarik: Great. Well, everyone, that's all the time that we have for today. If we didn't get to your question, we'll contact you with the response after the webinar. We thank you for everyone who joined us today. We thank Paul and John for a great presentation, and we hope to see you all next time. Have a great day.