Risk & Associates County Civil - March 2020


MARCH 2020

An Unexpected Journey to Civil Process Service


E ven before I began my career in the civil process profession, I realized that a lot of people rely on others during pivotal moments of their lives — like when serving someone a critically important court document. To find out afterward that the job was done incorrectly, and the service was deemed faulty, is simply not acceptable. It isn’t a light realization; it’s incredibly important to get things right the first time. My time and experience in law enforcement and corrections helped mold my values and work ethics. I will admit that, considering my less than stellar inner-city background, some people might be surprised to find out I’ve always liked school. I grew up in Lansing, and while I later became passionate about becoming a police officer, it wasn’t always that simple. I lived in a rough neighborhood and often heard myself referred to as “just another juvenile delinquent.” Luckily, I was drawn to history and law in school, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I didn’t want to continue going down a bad path. With the availability of a dual enrollment program in the 11th grade, I graduated from high school and Lansing Community College at virtually the same time. At 18, I became a police cadet. By 19, I had graduated from the police training academy and was a sworn police officer. Like many officers, my attraction to law stemmed from wanting to help people. My time as an officer really prepared me to help people who don’t necessarily want to speak to me! These people have often had

a terrible day, week, or month, so I learned that keeping my own emotions in check would help me approach them and keep our contact positive. It’s a skill that helps me even to this day, especially when we are required to serve and enforce a court order, seize someone’s property, or conduct an eviction. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of the circumstance. As a law enforcement and corrections veteran of over 30 years, I didn’t find myself in the civil process profession until I agreed to help serve some papers for a civil deputy who, as it turned out, was retiring. I recognized the opportunity to move forward in the field, so I began accepting more and more work. About this time, Raymond Voet, the former Ionia County prosecuting attorney, became the new judge for the Ionia County district court. Shortly after his appointment, I was offered a position as a court officer, an opportunity I have always appreciated more than words could ever express. It was this first appointment that led to 21 additional court officer appointments and a host of special deputy positions throughout Michigan. But as I learned more about the field, I grew concerned: Very few regulations held process servers accountable for their actions. Many process servers lacked the motivation to perform well, and others simply had very little fear of filing false or

misleading affidavits. I saw an opportunity to create an agency that would make sure we did it right. I developed several procedures and instituted protocols to ensure we would accomplish this goal. Now, we don’t just give people papers and say, “Go serve them.” We have an internal process server training program, our own proprietary software and mobile app that interface with our secure website, and we constantly conduct internal audits and activity reports to make sure we stay on track. Our agency places a unique focus on technology in our everyday operations and does so without losing track of what matters most: the people. I strongly believe in treating people right, whether they’re my staff, our clients, court personnel, or the people we must serve. As a self-admitted workaholic, I know civil process and judgment enforcement isn’t the only important part of the job. We must also, establish and maintain trusting relationships with all our clients, the public, and each other. Thank you for reading our first newsletter. I’m looking forward to bringing you easy- to-understand procedural advice, news commentaries, and fun articles beyond the civil process service profession in future editions. Have a great rest of your month!

-Rick Risk



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When Bilott stumbled upon a letter from DuPont to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the real horror story began to emerge — one that went far beyond the boundaries of Tennant’s farm and into the drinking water of every American. The letter mentioned a mysterious chemical called PFOA, and Bilott requested documentation from DuPont to find out more about it. However, the company refused, so Bilott requested a court order. Soon, dozens of disorganized boxes filled with thousands of 50-year- old files arrived at Bilott’s firm. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to find anything incriminating or even conclusive in the mess of documents, but soon, his time as an environmental lawyer helped him see the bigger picture. It became clear that DuPont had orchestrated a massive cover-up regarding their use of PFOA. PFOA is used in the manufacturing of Teflon, and the company had knowingly exposed workers and the Parkersburg water supply to it. Bilott filed a class-action suit as a medical monitoring claim on behalf of the people of Parkersburg, and, as of 2011, a probable link between PFOA and six health conditions, including two types of cancer, has been found. Because of the medical monitoring claim, plaintiffs can file personal injury lawsuits against DuPont. So far, 3,535 people have. If it weren’t for Bilott and Tennant, the public might have never known the dangers of PFOA. Something in the Water

Rob Bilott never should have agreed to represent Wilbur Tennant’s case.

The cattle farmer had presented evidence of the strange malady

plaguing his cattle to lawyers, politicians, and veterinarians in Parkersburg, West Virginia, but no one took Tennant’s case seriously.

But when Bilott saw the evidence for himself, it was clear that something was wrong.

The videos and photographs Tennant had collected showed cattle with patchy fur, growths and lesions, white slime coming from their mouths, and staggering gaits. Tennant told Bilott that the abnormal behavior and physical deformities had started after his brother Jim sold his property to DuPont, a chemical company with a big presence in Parkersburg. Jim’s property bordered on Wilbur’s, and a stream running from Jim’s property provided water for all the cattle and wildlife in the area. Since the sale, the stream had become frothy and discolored, and the animals that drank from it were sick, malformed, or dead, including 153 of Tennant’s 200 cows.


NO. 3: KEEP A POSITIVE, HEALTHY WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT. Our own Mr. Risk, mentions what a strong believer he is in treating employees right: We agree! Encouraging positivity and understanding in the workplace makes even the toughest days easier, and that can really show through into how clients are treated. Shawn Achor’s (who also does a great TEDx Talk!) book “The Happiness Advantage” outlines how positivity will not only make you six times more likely to be engaged at work, but it’ll also increase your positive relationships. That can make all the difference when your clients arrive at your front desk. We hope you find these tips helpful! They’ve certainly helped us and our people. And whether you’re looking for a background check or need someone to be served, you need people who will do it right. Risk & Associates County Civil will do exactly that.

Many of our attorneys and business owners already know finding leads is only half the battle in their business. Developing connections with people is incredibly important to our lives and our work — but keeping those connections can be very challenging. What’s the best way to maintain strong, positive communication? At Risk & Associates County Civil, we’ve been working with every kind of client for over 30 years, and we’ve encountered many different approaches to the “people first” business strategy! Here are our insights on the most effective ways to keep your clients feeling special. NO. 1: TREAT EVERY CLIENT AS IF THEY’RE YOUR ONLY CLIENT. Nobody’s more aware of it than you are: There’s a lot of choices your client could’ve made when it comes to choosing a firm to do business with. Clients want validation that they made the right choice! When you treat

your client as if they’re your only client, you can ease their consumer anxiety and reassure them you are the best choice for their needs. Make sure you expend the necessary resources to give each client the attention they need. NO. 2: CONNECT WITH YOUR CLIENTS AS A PERSON. Being honest and having a genuine interest in your clients’ lives can be crucial to making them feel like they’re your only client. Sure, not everyone wants to make new friends at every establishment they walk into, but you can certainly treat them as a friend anyway! For a tip as straightforward as this one, we find it’s still rare that businesses try to accomplish this. We can’t stress this tip enough: Clients are often overjoyed when they interact with a business that connects with them on a level beyond just transactions and routine check-ins.


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‘THE HOBBY OF KINGS’ Coin collecting is a hobby anyone can participate in nowadays, but it wasn’t always that way. What makes collecting something as ordinary as coins so fascinating to millions of people throughout history?

to participate in the hobby. In the 19th century, the hobby expanded beyond its Westernized roots and went on to include foreign currencies as well. Professional guides with prices and history points started to become available, and while only the affluent could afford huge expansions to their collection, the hobby wasn’t exclusive to the rich anymore.

The origin of the coin is rather simple. In older times, humans used to trade with precious metals; however, they’d have to weigh out the metal to trade every time and also verify its quality. People managed to find a solution that made everyone happy: The government reformed precious metals into minted coins with a set worth and quality. While historians disagree on where coins were first minted, they agree it was a significant advance in the development of commercial trade. It makes sense, then, that only society’s most wealthy people throughout history could afford a coin collection. One of the very first coin collectors was Caesar Augustus in 27 A.D. Historians believe he used to give out coins as gifts, and it only supported the idea that only privileged folk could afford to hoard coins for sport. “Sport” may be a less accurate analogy than “art collecting,” but one thing is certain: Coin collecting represented scarcity and allowed us a deeper insight into historical socioeconomic dynamics. Many famous rulers and artists collected coins, such as Petrarch, Emperor Maximilian, Pope Boniface VIII of the Roman Empire, and Louis XIV and Henry IV of France.

In the 20th century, coin collecting has become far more accessible. Anyone can begin a collection! From finding quarters minted in different states to storing pennies minted in varying years, anyone can partake in old-fashioned coin hunting. And if there’s a coin

collecting show in town, we encourage you to go! You’ll definitely see more than pennies.

It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that coin collecting became an academic study. Around this time, the emerging middle class began






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2383 Tamarack St., Lake Odessa, MI 48849 616-374-7170 | COUNTYCIVIL.COM R isk & A ssociates

Rick Risk is Founder and President of Risk & Associates, a legal support service provider in Michigan, and has assisted hundreds of attorneys, municipalities, courts, Sheriff Offices, businesses and others with their strategic process needs.



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Founder Rick Risk’s ‘Origin’ Story

The Lawyer Who Took on a Multibillion-Dollar Company The Power of ‘People First’

The Vast, Rich History of Coin Collecting

New York City’s Chaotic Annual Tradition

Smashed Mirrors, Maimed Sofas, and Missing Bed-screws THE DAY EVERYONE IN NEW YORK CITY MOVED

Moving is the worst. The costs of hiring a moving company and the sheer

A few prominent theories have emerged about the origins of

amount of time it takes to physically move everything make the whole affair an aggravating mess. And if you thought moving just one house on your street was terrible, imagine the chaos that would ensue if everyone in your whole city moved on the same day. That’s exactly what happened in New York City for nearly two centuries. From Colonial times until the end of World War II, May 1 was Moving Day in New York. On that day, every lease in the city ended, and pandemonium reigned in the streets as everyone scurried to their new homes. Eyewitness accounts of Moving Day describe the tradition as sheer mayhem. An English writer said Moving Day looked like “a population flying from the plague,” and frontiersman Davy Crockett called it an “awful calamity” when he discovered the event in 1834. Still, some people loved Moving Day. Long Island farmers took their carts into the city on May 1 and charged as much as a week’s wages to move desperate tenants’ belongings to their new homes, which was a tidy sum in those days. Children were also fond of Moving Day because they got the day off school to help their families navigate the tumultuous time.

this tradition. Some posit that May 1 coincided with the English celebration of May Day. Others say

it morphed out of an event where servants would look for new employers. The most well-known explanation, however, is the May 1 move commemorated the day Dutch colonizers “moved” to Manhattan in the first place. The Moving Day tradition began vanishing in the early 20th century because many cartmen and housing builders were drafted during World War I, leaving fewer movers and less available housing. Additionally, the construction of the New York City subway gave other tenants rapid access to more housing options outside Manhattan. Finally, after many cartmen were again drafted in WWII, the tradition officially ended in 1945.


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