Service of Process Continuity:

3 Keys to Success


During today’s uncertain times, it’s more critical than ever that companies are confident in how their most sensitive documents are being routed, tracked, and stored. Do you know how decisions are being made related to your service of process (SOP) in our current environment? Default judgements are the last thing your organization should be worried about right now, but for companies lacking sound tools and processes for managing SOP, this poses a serious concern.

The good news is, establishing a secure and scalable SOP management process can be easy. In this recorded webinar, CSC will share key considerations for evaluating registered agent providers, to demonstrate how CSC is making SOP management simpler and more efficient than ever.

We’ll cover how the right SOP service can support business continuity in the face of uncertainty, and ensure your documents are routed quickly and accurately – and stored securely – regardless of where they are served. Our experts will walk you through new tools to streamline and unify your intake process, and show you the latest in secure integrations.

Webinar Transcript:

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.

Annie: Hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar, "Service of Process Continuity: 3 Keys to Success." My name is Annie Triboletti, and I will be your moderator. Joining us today are John Bloxom and Paul Matthews. John is a Senior Director of Product Management at CSC. He collaborates with customers, prospects, and business stakeholders to shape CSC product development, vision, and strategy for several business lines. Paul is a Senior Service Manager at CSC. In his role, he leads CSC's Litigation Management Operations team, which is the team responsible for handling all service of process received by CSC. And with that, let's welcome John and Paul.

John: Good afternoon, everyone.

Paul: Good afternoon. Thanks, Annie for that introduction. So, before we dive in today, we'll just kind of quickly go through today's agenda, give you an idea of what we'll be talking about during today's session. We're going to start with just defining some basic terms. We want to make sure we're all starting with a common vocabulary, so as we use these terms throughout the presentation, you'll understand exactly what we're referring to. Then we're going to dive into three different critical areas for securing your position relative to your service of process continuity. And finally, we'll close out the session today with an overview of a new offering from CSC that's extremely relevant to that topic.

So, with that, let's dive in. The first area we're going to talk about, again, as I said, we want to just level-set on some basic terms. So, obviously, service of process is a term we'll be using a lot today, and one we expect that our audience is familiar with. But just to kind of differentiate, there's sort of the standard textbook definition of service of process, which is just that initial notice that happens at the beginning of a lawsuit.

We're going to use a slightly more expansive definition today to really talk about all the full variety of documents that CSC sees as a registered agent and handles on behalf of our customers. So that includes beyond those, you know, summons and complaints that initiate lawsuits, it's also going to include wage garnishments, bankruptcy filing, documents related to foreclosures, subpoenas, and some of those other areas as well. The needs are a little different in each area, but I think some of the core practices are the same and the considerations for each are the same.

And we'll also talk a lot about the registered agent and the role of the registered agent. Again, at a very high level, that role is, at least on paper, very simple. It helps organizations fulfill a requirement that exists in most jurisdictions, where a registered agent has to be named with the state. That registered agent's responsibilities are generally receiving service of process on behalf of the entities that they're listed as agent for as well as handling annual reports and other compliance related mail that goes out from the various agencies within those jurisdictions.

So again, those will be sort of our working terms. And again, we wanted to start there so there's no confusion about what is and isn't included in the conversation.

So we're going to start talking about basically what does or should go into the selection of a registered agent. I think for any good or service, there's always going to be less expensive options. And I think we'd be missing something if we didn't acknowledge that that existed. I think what you're going to find with providers at that end of the continuum is you're going to hear people trying to convince you that choosing a registered agent is essentially selecting a commodity, where price is really the only significant factor. And for the most basic, simplest organizational structures, with the least amount of surface area exposed to the outside world, that might be a reasonable gamble. But for most organizations and most of the organizations we deal with, that's not a risk that they should or we would advise them to take.

We're going to look at this slide, and there's a couple of main areas that we think really differentiate a sort of check-the-box solution in the registered agent arena versus a provider that's actually going to enhance your ability to manage risk and manage your processes.

So we'll start with kind of talking about data and data security. I think it's really important to understand and consider how each provider is going to manage and protect your critical data. Within your organization, you almost certainly have practices and tools in place to do that very thing. So while that data is on its way in transit to you, while there's documents that may have personally identifiable information or other critical information contained within it in service of process, you want to make sure that your providers at every step of the process are treating the documents with the same care that you would within your organization and make sure that they honestly have the capability to help you meet those security obligations that you have.

Another key component of that is understanding: Where is your data going to go? Where's it going to be stored? Who's going to have access to it along the way? Again, within your organization, you take care with those kinds of decisions. It just makes sense to do the same thing when you're selecting a registered agent.

As we move kind of across to the middle of the slide, talk about the notion of a national network. So if you've got an organization, it needs representation in many states, or all 50 states, or even beyond that, you want to make sure you're choosing a provider that can help you meet that whole need. What you don't want to do is end up in a position where you're having to manage a patchwork of local and regional providers. At the end of the day, it comes down to having something that you can depend on and something that is going to be predictable. So it's sort of that notion of consistency and predictability is a critical component of what you should be looking for in any vendor, but certainly that's true when you're selecting a registered agent.

What we find is that some providers out there will utilize things like virtual office spaces, essentially a glorified mailbox, where your critical SOP documents are going to be treated much the same as a credit card offer or an office supply catalog. It's just another piece of mail, another document that's moving through a process. In other cases, you'll find that your data and documents are being handled offshore. And again, depending on your organization, depending on what you're required to do with managing your data and documents in-house, that may or may not be consistent with what you need to happen. So, again, that's a critical question to ask when you're considering providers.

For CSC, again, our general process is we try to focus on providing consistency. We want to make sure that at every point of document handling and intake our customers' service of process is utilizing a common process, common software and hardware, and where we need to utilize local providers, we cultivate longstanding relationships with those providers. We want to make sure that they meet the same exacting standards that we would require of any of our branch offices.

And even with that said, even though we do make sure we've got all those controls and tools in place to make sure that everyone's on the same page and aimed in the same direction, we still only rely on those kind of third-party vendors at the intake stage of it. So they're there to receive things and initiate the process. But for all of the critical data capture, all the critical decision-making, we always make sure that that is happening with trained CSC employees, who have been specifically and thoroughly trained on how to handle service of process, understanding why it's sensitive, understanding all of the things that need to go right for each document that comes through, and making sure that all of our processes and practices are lined up with that.

Then the third consideration is really just thinking about the technology that that registered agent provider is leveraging to deliver these services. What I would say is the right provider in this space is one that's going to leverage those best-in-class technologies as the foundation and backbone of the service that they're providing. Those technologies need to be airtight. They need to be stable, highly performant, and where those technologies are exposed to customers and end users, those solutions need to be intuitive, modern, and they just need to work. They need to be there and be available, and they need to do the things that you, as the ultimate audience for these documents, it needs to do all the things you need it to do.

And beyond all of those things, we also believe that all of those technologies need to be well integrated. So, for us, that means the tools we use during our intake and processing of customer documents need to be directly connected so that information flows quickly from CSC's internal tools to its customer-facing solutions. And if you have needs downstream from that, if you need to get this data and documents from CSC's systems into other third-party applications that support your downstream business processes, you need tools that are capable of delivering that.

As we move forward, John's now going to spend some time to describe a little bit about our integration capabilities and what that looks like and how you can utilize those.

John: Yeah. So, to echo Paul's comments, one of the considerations in terms of selecting a registered agent and one of the things that sets CSC apart is our ability to connect with either in-house or third-party applications. So this slide gets into some of those specifics.

First off, what do we mean when we're saying SOP integration? I think we would define this as the seamless transmission of your SOP documents and core data into one or many downstream systems. So when I say "core data," I'm referring to things like the party involved, the nature of the proceeding, the court or agency, the case number, the answer date, the date that service was made, and so forth.

So that being said, why would your department consider integrating SOP or the downstream system? There are a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, there's potentially an efficiency gain to be realized. We're seeing more and more of this due to the advent of legal operations, lots of focus on eliminating manual processes, benchmarking your department's performance against KPIs, and kind of looking at legal through a business management lens. This is one less thing that your in-house staff needs to worry about. Documents will simply flow to their intended recipients, as opposed to relying on members of your team to kind of farm things out and play traffic cop, if you will.

That, in turn, has the benefit of focusing your in-house staff on higher value work. You're keeping your legal team focused on legal issues as opposed to administrative tasks. And that distinction between managing the legal issues and running the department operationally, most of the clients we've spoken with would prefer really to maximize the time that their staff is spending on the highest value legal work. And this certainly positions you to do that if you've done a substantial amount of service of process.

Another core consideration, you're going to reduce the cycle time in terms of getting documents to their intended recipients. SOP often has time-sensitive response dates and, by nature, requires quick attention. By automating delivery, you're getting those documents to their destination as quickly as possible.

And then finally, there's also a security and confidentiality consideration here. When you are transmitting this information securely and electronically, for sensitive information, particularly relevant with employment-related matters, there's no opportunity for folks to see things that they shouldn't see. So kind of in that employment vein, you have things like defensive litigation. You have wage garnishments that relate to employees. You could have tax levies and things of that nature. All of that is transmitted seamlessly to its intended recipient without someone having to glance at it first and kind of determine where it needs to go.

So what types of integration do we commonly see? There are a couple of different examples.

One would be ELM platforms. So you may have a dedicated ELM system for your high-profile litigation or for your legal spend and e-billing with outside counsel.

Payroll systems is another common example. So if your organization receives lots of wage garnishments, retailers, for example, tend to receive a lot of those documents, it might make sense for you to have those withholding orders flow through seamlessly.

Subpoena compliance is another. So if your company gets lots of records requests, insurance carriers, telecom firms, financial institutions, there may be benefit in kind of pursuing that manner of integration.

And then you have third-party outsourcing firms that deal with things like subpoena compliance and garnishment processing. And we've done multiple integrations with those providers.

And then finally, though it's not on the slide, it's worth noting that we've integrated with a dozen or so proprietary in-house applications as well. So that's certainly an option if you have something that you've built yourself and you want to take advantage of that integration capability.

How does it work? It's pretty simple really. Your registered agent enables what's referred to as an API. API stands for application programming interface. And it's basically just a way to transmit that information between two systems, again, securely and quickly. There's a little bit of lightweight configuration that needs to be done, but it's all quite seamless.

As you can see here, you can have different classes of documents go to different systems. You have complete control over what pieces of data are sent and also how frequently those documents are delivered into the downstream application. Whether that's something that occurs once or twice a day, on the hour, on the half hour, every couple of minutes, that determination is yours to make.

So that kind of takes us through the integration piece. What Paul is now going to discuss is SOP continuity and how that relates to kind of BCP procedures.

Paul: Thanks, John. So while by no stretch of the imagination are we all the way through the global health crisis, obviously, we're very much in the thick of it. I do think we're far enough into it that we can start asking some questions about how we're doing and how we've done so far. And I think it's a good time to do that kind of retroactive look back to really understand, did it go well, is it going well?

So the first question, did you think your organization was ready for this kind of thing? I think we can safely assume that, over the last couple of months, every business has had to make some kind of adjustments to nearly every phase of their normal business operations. Everyone's adjustments were different, ranging from complete shutdown of some or all of their operations, reimagining of how they would and could operate and continue to support their customers and their business processes.

And then there were other organizations, and we maybe saw some of this in the survey results earlier, other organizations that were well-prepared. They really were able to just smoothly pivot with little interruption in their day-to-day business. And I think it's important to ask: What made the difference there? At the end of the day, when you kind of think of the spectrum of outcomes, is your organization where you expected it to be? Are you satisfied with how your organization really performed during this period?

So the question then becomes not just, do you think you would be ready, but were you actually ready? In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, most organizations, they turned to their previously documented business continuity plans. And at some point, a lot of organizations, whether it was within minutes, hours, or days, they were in a situation that their plan never contemplated. They were way off the page.

The organizations that did well in this, as I mentioned earlier, are those organizations that had invested serious time in planning, in practicing, in really making sure that they had thought about all of the different facets of what something like this could or would be. So, again, time spent planning, time spent practicing was well invested in this case. So I think some of us did that well. Some of us wished we had done more. And I think there's an obligation within every organization to really do that math and figure out if enough was invested previously. And if not, how do you make sure that you do that going forward?

I think, again, it's important that we don't just give ourselves a score and walk away. I think we really have to talk about what did we learn? What are we still learning? I think ideally, you've learned a lot about where there were gaps and insufficiencies in your plans. I don't mean it's ideal that you had those gaps and insufficiencies. But if you've discovered that you had them, hopefully you understand where those gaps are now and where you need to spend more time planning and preparing for the future.

Most often what these types of events teach us is that our processes have a lot more surface area out in the world than we are aware of. We have interdependencies that are greater than what we had accounted for. And for a continuity plan to be worth anything, you really need to understand where you have those dependencies, and you need to make sure that you trust that those responsible for managing those elements are both up to the task and as well prepared as you are for what you're responsible for.

And so a final question worth considering here is: Where you have those external dependencies, do you have just service providers and vendors, or do you truly have someone who can be a partner in the process? If your plans ended at the walls of your business, you made things a lot harder on yourself than you needed to. Hopefully, what you did instead is you cultivated the type of vendors that go well beyond providing goods and services. Hopefully, you have the type of vendors that know their business inside out and they know your business well enough to be seamlessly woven into your processes. Hopefully, what you've discovered is that you actually have partners in this process.

An example of this in our world was helping our customers find a way to handle and manage service of process, that whether it shows up at their corporate headquarters or out in their branch offices throughout the network, in our experience, lots of customers, the way they handle this is it's an entirely separate process from how they handle the service of process coming from their registered agent. And what we find in probably way too many organizations is the process for handling that direct service of process, that stuff that doesn't come through the registered agent, that's where we find a lot of manual processes, a lot of paper-based processes, a lot of things that are location and physical office dependent. And obviously, under the current circumstances, that's a tough place to be in, a tough position to support.

What we've been able to do with a lot of our customers is help them redirect those processes. So where they have process servers coming to a home office and that home office is either closed entirely or it is on a skeleton crew and maybe the legal team is not onsite anymore, in some cases we help work with our customers to help them redirect process servers to the local CSC branch in that jurisdiction.

In other cases, the service of process that they were receiving directly wasn't all coming into one place. It wasn't a matter of just saying, okay, we're going to point them over here. Instead, it was still coming into their branches, in some cases retail locations, just any public-facing space. And in those instances, they were still relying on a network of people outside of their corporate headquarters or outside of their primary legal team to get those documents and get them to the right place. And where in the past, the instructions might have been just put that in an overnight envelope and send it to the legal team at headquarters. Now, it was a matter of how do we shift that to a process that still works when our legal team is working from home offices, they're spread to the wind, and we still need to get people their documents?

So CSC has been able to work with our customers in those situations and help use us a facilitator of that process. Get those offices to send things to us electronically. We can distribute them out to make sure that they land where they're supposed to land, not just because it's no longer as simple as just get it to headquarters. It's now we need to get it to a specific person because, otherwise, one of your legal professionals, whether it's a paralegal, an attorney, or other support staff that has a full-time job is now playing traffic cop and having to redirect all of these things. So in those situations, we were able to help and facilitate those processes.

And in just a moment, John is going to give you a quick demo of a new feature that CSC is rolling out that will really help support that kind of treatment of service of process that's coming directly to your locations. And this is something that'll work in the context of business continuity, but it will also work just in a general sense. If it's valuable to get all of your service of process in one place, in a consistent shape and form, this tool is something that will be available and something that can be used well beyond the current events.