A Notary is a qualified lawyer – a member of the third and oldest branch of the legal profession in the United Kingdom. A Notary is appointed by the Court of Faculties of the Archbishop of Canterbury and is subject to regulation by the Master of the Faculties. The rules which govern Notaries are very similar to the rules which govern Solicitors.
Notaries must be fully insured and maintain fidelity cover for the protection of their clients and the public. They must comply with stringent practice rules and rules relating to conduct and discipline.
Notaries have to renew their practising certificates every year and can only do so if they have complied with the rules.
Notaries are primarily concerned with the authentication and certification of signatures and documents so that they can be used abroad.
They are also authorised to conduct general legal practice (excluding the conduct of court proceedings) They may exercise the powers of a Commissioner for Oaths. The majority also practise as solicitors and do their general legal work in that capacity under the regulation of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
What is Notarisation?
A document is notarised by the Notary signing the document and affixing his unique notarial seal. By signing and sealing the document, the Notary is certifying the truth of the document, for example that the document is a true copy of an original document that has been produced to him or has been duly signed in his presence by a named person whom he has identified.
Where a document which has been notarised is for use abroad it is commonly a requirement of the foreign jurisdiction that the notary’s execution of the document is further certified as genuine by HM Government through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who will add an “Apostille” or certificate confirming the authenticity of the notary’s signature and seal, both of which are registered with the FCO. This process is called “legalisation.” On occasions it is a further requirement of the foreign jurisdiction that its Embassy or Consulate should verify the notary’s execution of the document.
The Faculty Office
The Faculty Office is the administrative body of which the Master of the Faculties is head. Part of its responsibilities is the governance of notaries. The Registrar of the Faculty Office oversees the training and qualification of notaries, has the responsibility for issuing the faculty and the annual practising certificate which, together, enable them to practise.
The Notaries Society has prepared a leaflet about the profession which may be of interest. Versions in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian are available below.