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FAQs for potential and existing clients

We have prepared some Frequently Asked Questions, to help potential and existing clients of Notaries:

A: A Notary Public is a qualified legal officer of ancient standing; Notaries are the oldest branch of the legal profession in England & Wales. As a qualified and regulated lawyer, a Notary must be fully insured (both professional indemnity and fidelity cover) to protect clients and the public. They must adhere to Rules and Regulations about practice, conduct, record-keeping and accounting. They are subject to disciplinary procedures if a formal complaint is made. They are required to keep their legal knowledge up-to-date by participating in Continuing Professional Education. A Notary must have a valid practising certificate, which is renewed annually, and cannot act as a Notary without it. Notaries work either on their own, or as part of a larger legal firm (such as a firm of Solicitors) or as a firm of Notaries. Each Notary is individually responsible for his/her Notarial practice.


A: A Scrivener Notary is a Notary with two or more language specialisms. To be admitted as a Scrivener Notary the individual will have been examined in two languages (not including English) and in advanced Notarial practice. The firms of Scrivener Notaries are based in London. They are subject to the Rules & Regulations of the Master of the Faculties in the same way but the Worshipful Company of Scriveners has a role in regulating and disciplining Scrivener Notaries.


A: You will need to see a Notary if you need documents or signatures authenticated or certified for use abroad.

You may wish to see a Notary if you need a lawyer to witness the signing and swearing of legal documents for use in this country.

You may also wish to see a Notary if you require other services of a lawyer, for example in Conveyancing, Will-writing, Probate activities, Estate administration, Company or Business Law. Most Notaries (excepting Scrivener Notaries) are also qualified Solicitors and can therefore provide legal services in the capacity of a Solicitor.


A: The Notaries Society (a representative membership body for the profession) has prepared a useful guide about seeing a Notary.


A: You should first ascertain that the individual was providing you with legal services in the capacity of a Notary (and not as a Solicitor or other legal professional). For the work of Solicitors, you should contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):

If you wish to make a comment about the service you have received from a Notary, please contact them directly in the first instance.

If you wish to make a formal complaint about the service you have received from a Notary you should first endeavour to raise the issue with the Notary directly. If this does not resolve the matter you should follow the complaints procedure.


A: A document is legalised if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on behalf of the UK Government has confirmed that the signature/seal/stamp of a UK public official (such as a Notary Public) on the document is genuine. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office authenticates the document by fixing a certificate to the document; that certificate is known as an Apostille.

Legalisation of a document by the relevant Embassy or Consulate may also be required; the relevant Embassy or Consulate is the one for the country in which it is intended the document will be used.

Your Notary will be able to advise on the processes and fees involved.


A: A Notary, client of a Notary, or other appropriate person may request the Faculty Office to produce a Certificate of Professional Status or a Certificate of Authentication.

A Certificate of Professional Status will give the name of a particular Notary on the roll of Notaries and confirm his/her professional status.

A Certificate of Authentication, for which there is a fee of £70.00, will give the same particulars as a Certificate of Professional Status but, upon a specific document being produced, the Registrar will additionally certify that the signature on that particular document matches the signature of the Notary in question which is recorded in the Notary’s entry in the roll-book.

These Certificates are usually only needed for countries which are not signatories to the Hague Convention and for which an Apostille is ineffective.

Legal Choices: Advice for Consumers

The Faculty Office is part of the ‘Legal Choices’ website project, which is provided by the legal regulators to help members of the public in dealing with lawyers. The site can be found at:

You can find out about:

* Different types of lawyers (including Notaries)

* The options for paying for different legal services

* How to find help for different legal issues

* How to complain if you are unhappy with a lawyer (including if you are not happy with your legal bill)