Legal matters are a reality every company has to face.

While dealing with these legalities likely isn’t your responsibility, as an administrative assistant it is your responsibility to support your executive and team. This means you need to have some understanding of service of process and how to react to them if and when your company or executive comes into question.

The law can be complicated and confusing with its legal orders, demands, garnishments, notices, and other documents pertaining to legal proceedings, so here’s what you need to remember when it comes to service of process or other legal items that come up at the office.

1. Don’t panic. Being served with a subpoena, summons, or other legal document can be intimidating and stressful, but you need to stay calm. Just because you receive a legal summons doesn’t mean you or your company has done anything wrong. Law enforcement may just need more information for an investigation, and a subpoena is how they  acquire that information.

2. Seek legal advice immediately. There is a deadline to respond to just about any legal document once it is delivered or served, and the deadline likely is not flexible. This is why it’s really important to know and understand what to do with legal items if they arrive on your desk. Make sure you know who to contact or forward the information to – whether it’s your executive, legal department, or outside counsel. You don’t want a delay on your desk to handicap your company’s opportunity to respond. A company can have a default judgment issued against it in a lawsuit if it fails to reply within the given timeframe. And a default judgment is a judgment against the company whether it has done anything improperly or not.  To ensure you have the right process for dealing with legal documents, you may want to work with your executive or legal department to create an administrative procedure to add to your procedures binder.

3. Contact insurance providers. If a lawsuit is filed against your company, your company may need to notify its insurance carriers. You want to make sure they know what’s going on so you don’t void your coverage in dealing with the legal situation. Depending up the policy, this notification is likely required where potential damages are above a certain amount.

Keep in mind, these are just general tips for use in your continuing education as an admin. If you have questions or need more information, seek counsel from a licensed attorney, as specific details on how to handle legal situations and documents can vary by state and country.