What is a Notary?
Many people wonder what notaries do. Let us answer that for you in straight-forward terms. Notaries in England and Wales are independent lawyers who help the public in non-contentious matters, mainly validations for oversea transactions.
History of Notaries
Notaries can be traced back to the Roman Empire where they began as a class of court official who drew up documents for the judiciary. The judges thereafter used a seal to authenticate these documents into legal Acts. Eventually, the courts empowered the notaries to authenticate deeds and documents with their own individual seals.
With the sixteenth century Reformation, Rome passed the appointment of notaries to the Crown in 1533. The monarchy entrusted the Archbishop of Canterbury to oversee the appointment through the Court of Faculties; a tradition which continues today.
Since the mid-1800s, the number of notaries in England and Wales has increased from around 50 to over 800; most are practising solicitors.
The Road to Becoming a Notary
The Notaries (Qualification) Rules 2017 provides an applicant be ‘of good character’, and:
“Is at least 21 years of age and has satisfied the requirements of these rules; and
Has taken the oath of allegiance and the oath required by Section 7 of the Public Notaries Act 1843; and
Is, except where such application is made under rule 4 (ecclesiastical notaries) or rule 8 either a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, or a barrister at law or a Chartered Legal Executive or holds a Degree”.
Therefore, usual applicants are solicitors and barristers, or those with a recent qualifying law degree and Legal Practice Certificate (LPC). This entitles an applicant to a Certificate of Exemption from the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury from core legal subjects of study.
Thereafter, applicants attend the Diploma in Notarial Practice. This is a two-year distance learning course run by institutions such as University College London wherein students’ study three subjects: Roman Law, Private International Law, and Notary Practice.
Once qualified, The Notaries Society (of England and Wales) mandates “all newly appointed notaries shall, for the first two/three years after their appointment, have their practice as a notary supervised by another notary”.