On many occasions, I have been asked questions such as: ‘how do you become a notary public?’, ‘what are the requirements to becoming a notary public?’ and ‘can anyone become a notary?’.
In this article, you will find out more about the work notaries do, the skills needed to be a successful notary, and how to qualify in England and Wales.
Firstly, it’s important to note that due to the different legal systems in the UK, the route to becoming a notary differs between England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, on being admitted as a solicitor, you can opt in to register as a notary public, whereas in Northern Ireland you may be appointed only after serving six years as a solicitor.
There are only approximately 750 registered notaries in England and Wales. In many towns there may only be one or two notaries, meaning that becoming a notary could give you an edge in a highly competitive legal market.
What Exactly Is a Notary Public?
The terms notary and notary public are interchangeable. They are qualified lawyers and also public officers authorised to assist the public with non-contentious legal matters. Notaries form the third and oldest branch of the legal profession in the UK.
What Does a Notary Public Do?
A notary is mainly involved in authenticating signatures, and the capacity and authority of persons signing. They are also responsible for administering oaths and affirmations and taking affidavits, statutory declarations and acknowledgements. Elsewhere they may confirm the authenticity of documents, either copies or originals, or make legal statements confirming the status of companies.
Some notaries also carry out other types of legal work, including conveyancing and probate.
How to Become a Notary Public in England and Wales
Qualification as a notary is regulated by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Qualifying as a notary public can be broken down into three stages: the academic stage, the professional stage, and admission.
(1) The academic stage
The first step is demonstrating that you satisfy the academic requirements to be granted a Certificate of Exemption from the Faculty Office.
To meet this requirement, you must show that you’ve undertaken and attained a satisfactory standard in 8 subjects:
- Public & Constitutional Law
- The Law of Property
- The Law of Contract
- The Law of the European Union
- Equity and the Law of Trusts
- The Law and Practice of Companies and Partnership
- Wills, Probate and Administration
There are three main routes in which you could attain a satisfactory standard in these 8 subjects.
1. The academic route
If you have successfully completed an undergraduate law degree or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), you will most likely have attained the required standard for the first five subjects.
If you have also completed your Legal Practise Course (LPC) or Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), you will have completed all 8 subjects and should be granted an Exemption from the Faculty Office. The 8 subjects could also be studied as individual CILEX level six modules.
2. Qualified solicitor route
If you are a solicitor in general practice in England or Wales, you are automatically exempted from studying the “core” subjects. If you are not a solicitor in general practice, you can apply for exemptions from studying the “core” subjects on the basis of your current practice in these areas.
Exemptions from studying the three “professional” subjects are only awarded if you can demonstrate regular and substantial practice in those areas. If you do not qualify for exemptions in all of the required subjects, you must complete one or more examined modules before starting the Notarial Practice Course.
3. CILEX route
Provided you have studied these subjects within the last 5 years and to an acceptable standard, the Faculty Office may grant an Exemption meaning no further examinations are needed to move onto the professional training stage.
(2) The Professional Training Stage
Once you have been granted a Certificate of Exemption you can move onto the professional training stage.
The professional training stage is where you will study the remaining three subjects:
- Roman Law as an Introduction to Civil-Law Systems
- Private International Law
- Notarial Practice
The Faculty Office will not grant any exemptions for these subjects, so the only route to satisfying the professional training stage is to study the Notarial Practice Course provided by University College London (UCL).
The Notarial Practice Course is a two-year distance learning course that is run on the Faculty Office’s behalf.
Once you have successfully completed the Notarial Practice Course, you will be required to attend a one-day Office Practice Course whereupon you may apply to the Faculty Office for admission to the Roll of Notaries. To apply for admission, you are required to submit a formal application along with a Certificate of Fitness and a Certificate of Good Character.
All newly appointed notaries will be required to have their practice as a notary supervised by another notary for the first two years. Therefore, before making the formal application for admission, you should ensure that you have arranged a supervisor. The supervisor must have been in actual practice as a notary for at least 5 years.
Interested in Becoming a Notary Public?
Aside from the formal requirements, it is important that you have a keen interest in this branch of law and that you possess the right skills.
As a notary, you will interact with people from all over the world, and so it is important that you are able to communicate well with people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds. Knowledge of foreign languages will definitely help.
Notaries quite often have to work to tight deadlines and short transaction windows so being able to work under pressure while keeping focused and maintaining a high standard of attention to detail is critical.
You must also conduct your business with the utmost honesty and integrity.
If you are ready to become a notary public and would like to have the support of one of the leading notary firms in London, please get in touch and we will be happy to offer guidance. If you are already practising as a notary public, and would are interested in working with our team, we’d also love to hear from you.
For any questions or enquiries about becoming a notary public, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be more than happy to assist.