Wall Street Journal - August 31, 1995
SERVING SUBPOENAS WITH A SMILE, & AN UNUSUALLY DRAMATIC FLAIR
By: Wendy Brandes
Irving Botwinick has learned that not everyone appreciates good service.
That’s because the owner of a New York company called Serving by Irving makes
it his business to get subpoenas into the hands of reluctant recipients. Not only do
Mr. Botwinick’s employees deliver the documents, they document the deliveries,
snapping photos of people holding their papers. The evidence of jobs properly done
is meant to counter recipients’ claims of not having received a subpoena.
Mr. Botwinick estimates that 40% of his cases involve “avoiders,” but his motto
is, “If they’re alive, we’ll serve them; if they’re dead, we’ll tell you where they’re
This devotion costs attorneys with papers to serve a minimum of $75 an hour. That
adds up to revenue of $1 million a year, Mr. Botwinick says. Business has been good,
in fact, he plans to advertise on Court TV this fall. One ad will re-enact a particularly
proud moment; the time an employee submitted to a full medical examination in
order to serve papers to an elusive physician.
Alan Crowe, the head of the National Association of Professional Process Servers,
cautions that process serving isn’t normally a road to quick riches. Most process
servers get $25 to $50 for an “uncomplicated” service, he says.
And forget the spy routine. “The woman who has to make an appointment for an
exam isn’t really what we’re about,” says Mr. Crowe. “Our association is not about
deception and lying.”
Mr. Botwinick doesn’t entirely agree. “You can legally lie to someone to get to the
person,” to be served, he explains.
Mr. Botwinick sometimes advertises for employees in Backstage, the theatrical trade
publication. “A person has to have creativity in their blood,” he says.
A strong constitution also helps. Philip Velez, who recently posed as an autograph
seeker at Shea Stadium in order to bestow divorce papers on a visiting pitcher, has
been shoved and pummeled. (Not by the pitcher, though.) Another employee had
his foot run over when a target made a speedy getaway by car.
But because Mr. Botwinick specializes in medical-malpractice cases, truly life-
threatening situations are rare. Doctors are more likely to run than fight, he says.
And for those who do run, he has advice: “If you’re going to hide, hide well. I get
paid by the hour.”