What Is a Court Messenger or Courier?

Definition & Examples of a Court Messenger or Courier

Young woman courier by a delivery car, carrying parcels.
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A court messenger or courier transports legal documents or goods from one party to another for legal professionals and institutions.

Learn more about court messengers or couriers and how they work.

What Is a Court Messenger or Courier?

Court messengers or couriers typically ensure that legal and other documents get to where they need to be. They may transport items between a lawyer and the court, between law offices, or between the court and other parties. They might work independently, for a law firm, or seek employment with a courier service.

Alternate name: Legal courier

How Court Messengers or Couriers Work

Legal couriers have an obligation to meet or beat deadlines when their services are called on since they pick up and deliver documents and packages that are often time-sensitive. A lawsuit is typically a maze of deadlines, most ordered by the court to prevent cases from dragging out for extended and unreasonable periods of time. Documents and packages cannot be delivered by U.S. mail or even by overnight delivery services like Federal Express when time is particularly of the essence; they must sometimes be delivered within that day's business hours.

Court messengers also need to be aware of their responsibilities around a chain of custody. With sensitive evidence, there are protocols that must be followed and every step needs to be documented.

Court messengers often deliver items a law firm is unwilling to entrust to other means of delivery, such as highly sensitive evidence or confidential case information.

Legal couriers may even run miscellaneous errands. In some cases, they may be called upon to file documents with the court, negotiating courthouses to deliver pleadings to the proper division and return filed copies to the law office.

Requirements for Court Messengers or Couriers

Most entry-level legal couriers need a high school diploma or equivalent, a driver's license with a clean driving record, and a car or another reliable method of transportation. There are specialized training programs covering document security, ethics and confidentiality, and other relevant topics, but those aren't required to get started in the field.

Candidates for court messenger or courier positions often need to undergo background checks because of the sensitive nature of what they transport.

Innovation and the ability to think on your feet are also a must. Imagine taking custody of documents that must be filed with the court by 4:00 p.m. and running into a logjam of traffic at 3:50. Training for this and other eventualities is typically acquired on the job. Post-secondary educational institutions can't teach you the layout of your local courthouses or the least-trafficked routes between attorneys' offices.

Even though being a courier tends to be a learn-as-you-go profession, it helps to have good interpersonal skills since you'll be dealing with many different people each day. And since you must deliver packages on time, you also need to follow directions well and be deadline-oriented.

Advantages of Court Messenger or Courier Jobs

Working as a legal courier can be a great entry-level job for those interested in law. It can help you gain insight into many law firm processes and help you become familiar with court filing procedures and personnel. Employment as a legal courier or court messenger can also be an excellent way for law students to get their feet in the doors of law firms.

Another benefit of being a court messenger is that between deliveries, you can usually spend your time how you want to spend it without much oversight.

Key Takeaways

  • Court messengers or couriers, also called legal couriers, deliver important documents and other items for legal firms and institutions.
  • Often, their deliveries are time-sensitive and can include confidential documents. Because of this, couriers often need to pass background checks.
  • Court messengers or couriers don't need special training or education, but they must have a reliable method of transportation, be responsible and resourceful, and able to meet deadlines.