We are often asked by clients about the difference between lawyers and notaries. As professionals recognized to provide legal services in British Columbia, both lawyers and notaries provide similar services to the public. In this article we intend to canvass some of the differences between lawyers and notaries in the hopes that it will assist the general public in understanding the distinction between these two categories of legal professionals.
Lawyers in British Columbia are regulated and governed by the Legal Professions Act and the Law Society of British Columbia. Similarly, public notaries in the province are governed by the Notaries Act and their professional society, the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia. Both societies are self-governing bodies tasked with, among other things, protecting the public interest and upholding the reputation of their respective professions. For example, each of these governing bodies is responsible for establishing and enforcing standards of professional conduct of individuals practicing in their respective professions.
To learn more about the administrative bodies governing lawyers and notaries, please visit their respective websites:
- Law Society of British Columbia: https://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/
- Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia: http://www.notaries.bc.ca/home/index.rails
The initial and continuing education requirements imposed by the Law Society of British Columbia and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia are different.
In order to become a lawyer in British Columbia, lawyers generally must obtain two university degrees, an undergraduate degree and a three year law degree. In some cases, the undergraduate degree does not need to be completed in full prior to applying to law school. Following graduation from law school, lawyers in British Columbia are required to complete the Professional Legal Training Course as part of a one year articling position where they are introduced to the practice of law under the supervision of a qualified, practicing lawyer.
Notaries are also requires to obtain two degrees, an undergraduate degree and a two year Master of Arts degree in Applied Legal Studies (“Notaries Public Program”) at Simon Fraser University. In some cases, the undergraduate degree does not need to be completed in full prior to applying to the Notaries Public Program. For example, in some cases, completion of three years of an undergraduate degree or at least ten years’ practice at a Notary Public office is sufficient. Following graduation from the Notaries Public Program, notaries are required to complete a six week practicum and a three week mentorship program.
Both lawyers and notaries recognize the importance of continuing education. According, both lawyers and notaries are required by their respective governing body to participate in continuing legal education on an annual basis. Lawyers are required to complete at least twelve hours of continuing professional development in accredited educational activities. At least two of these hours must pertain to professional responsibility, ethics, client care and relations and/or practice management. Notaries with less than two years’ practice experience are required to complete 9 credits annually towards continuing education and notaries with more than two years of practice experience are required to complete 12 credits. The credit value of each course or session is determined by the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia.
From a client’s perspective, the primary difference between lawyers and notaries relates to the legal advice and service each class of legal professionals can provide.
Lawyers are able to assist clients with all legal matters. This includes contracts, real estate, corporate, commercial, family law, criminal law, estate planning and estate administration. Of course, some lawyers choose to only practice in certain areas of law – usually solicitor (transactional) work or litigation (advocacy/court) work.
Notaries are able to assist clients with certain types of transactional matters. Notaries are permitted to provide legal services related to real estate transactions, wills, affidavits, the administration of oaths, the signing of legal documents and various other non-adversarial legal matters. Notaries are not permitted to represent clients in court. Accordingly, notaries are not permitted to assist clients with criminal matters, family matters, estate administration (probate) or other litigious legal matters.
When deciding whether to retain a lawyer or notary for assistance with your legal needs, it is important to consider the scope of your legal needs. Specifically, we recommend that you assess whether your legal needs currently fit within the realm of the legal services provided by notaries and the potential monetary and practical implications if your legal needs shift/change and extend beyond the scope of legal services authorized to be provided by a notary.
There is a common misconception that lawyers are more expensive than notaries. Quite often, prices between lawyers and notaries are comparable and in some cases, notaries may even charge more. The cost of obtaining legal services, whether provided by a lawyer or notary, varies from firm to firm, person to person and by time of year. This variance usually reflects, among other things, the legal professional’s experience and the legal matter’s complexity and/or time constraints.
Touchstone Law Group LLP:
We at Touchstone Law Group LLP strive to provide dependable and quality legal services. We do our best to make sure that every client leaves happy and eager to recommend us to their friends and family and we enjoy creating life-long relationships with our clients and being able to assist them with all types of legal matters. How does Touchstone Law Group LLP do this and stand out from others providing similar services? Here at Touchstone Law Group LLP we consider ourselves, in comparison to our competitors, to be mangos. It’s not a comparison of apples to apples, or even apples to oranges. How can you compare apples and mangos?
At Touchstone Law Group LLP we recognize that your transaction is a major transaction for you and our entire focus is on making it as simple for you as possible. Our mission statement truly says it all, “We simplify the complicated”. Our personalized approach to accommodating our clients’ specific needs allows us to comprehensively address all of your legal needs in one place, at one time, providing our clients peace of mind by simplifying and protecting their interests.
Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the differences between lawyers and notaries. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have with regards to the above or any other legal matter.
Author: Kelly Newby
This information is general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information. This information should not be considered as legal advice. To learn more about your legal needs, please contact our office at (250)448-2637 or any of our lawyers practicing in the area of business law, real estate law, and wills and estates law at the following:Una Gabie: firstname.lastname@example.org Jennette Vopicka: email@example.com Danielle (Dani) Brito: firstname.lastname@example.org