Notaries vs Lawyers: What are the Differences?Jul 26 2022
We are often asked by clients about the differences between notaries and lawyers. As professionals recognized to provide legal services in British Columbia, both notaries and lawyers provide similar services to the public. Below we outline some important differences for you to be aware of when deciding which legal professional is right for you.
The education requirements imposed by the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia and the Law Society of British Columbia are distinct.
To become a notary in British Columbia, notaries require two university degrees, an undergraduate degree, and a two-year Master of Arts degree in Applied Legal Studies at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Following graduation, notaries are expected to complete a six-week practicum and a three-week mentorship program.
To become a lawyer in British Columbia, lawyers must obtain two university degrees, an undergraduate degree, and a three-year law degree. Following graduation from law school, lawyers are required to complete the Professional Legal Training Course (PLTC) as part of a one-year articling position under the supervision of a practicing lawyer.
Notaries in British Columbia are regulated by the Notaries Act and their professional society, the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia. Lawyers in British Columbia are regulated by the Legal Professions Act and the Law Society of British Columbia. Both societies are self-governing bodies tasked with setting and enforcing standards of professional conduct.
To learn more about the societies, please visit their websites:
From a practical standpoint, the primary difference between notaries and lawyers relate to the legal advice and services they can provide. Lawyers can assist clients with all types of legal matters. This includes real estate, corporate transactions, family law, employment, estate planning, estate administration and criminal law.
While notaries and lawyers both deal with legal matters, notaries do not represent clients in court and do not get involved in litigation. Their work is restricted to non-contentious matters in which all parties involved have already reached an agreement. Notaries are permitted to provide legal services related to wills, affidavits, real estate transactions, the administration of oaths, and other non-adversarial legal matters.
When deciding whether to retain a notary or a lawyer for assistance with your legal needs, it is important to consider the scope of your legal needs.
There is a widespread misunderstanding that lawyers are more expensive than notaries. Prices between notaries and lawyers are quite frequently comparable, while in some cases lawyers are more and in others notaries may even charge more. The cost of obtaining legal services varies from person to person, and firm to firm. This variance usually reflects the complexity of the legal matter, time constraints and/or the legal professional’s experience.
Another key difference between lawyers and notaries is insurance coverage. Every lawyer in private practice in British Columbia has coverage with the Lawyers Indemnity Fund (LIF). In the unfortunate situation where a lawyer makes an error that causes a loss to the client, the client may be compensated for the loss. In contrast, there is no comparable insurance coverage scheme for notaries. Consequently, if a notary makes a mistake that causes a loss to the client, the client may need to rely on seeking compensation from the notary personally.