Tony French is a sole practitioner from Melbourne who specialises in property, wills and estates and notarial work. Tony spoke to Survive Law about why he became a Notary Public and what his work involves…
How would you describe what a Notary Public is and what they do?
Many people are unaware of the existence let alone the role of a Notary until the country they intend to travel to, say to study or conduct business, requires them to provide “notarised” copies of documents that establish their personal or business identity. The role of the Notary is to ensure the “trustworthiness” of those documents.
The Notary is a practising lawyer who holds a unique office of trust and fidelity, who has the internationally recognised power to prepare certificates acceptable to the judicial or public authorities of those foreign countries.
What interested you in becoming a Notary?
Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, with lots of people conducting business and other connections in many different foreign countries, and requiring the “trustworthy” services of a Notary. A Notary has no domestic role in the Australian legal system and so all the documents I prepare are used abroad. I became a Notary as a number of my clients, especially the commercial ones, needed these services. Now most of my notarial work is done for the general public.
Are there any special skills that a Notary requires?
To be appointed a Notary you need to be a practising lawyer holding a full practise certificate and with at least 5 years experience. Not that long ago all Australian Notaries were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and they still are in Queensland and New Zealand. Now States like Victoria have their own admission requirements and here there is a one-year grad dip course. This course covers not just practical matters but also studies Conflict of Laws and Comparative Law. Some 70% of the world’s legal systems are based on civil law.
What do you find is the most satisfying part of your work as a Notary?
All of a sudden my legal practise has a window on the world! I am awed at where people are going to or what business they are establishing or conducting in some of the most interesting and remote countries. Every client who comes through the door has a different story and needs, and so the work is never dull. It’s a privilege to be able to help them.
What advice would you give to law students or young solicitors who might want to become a Notary?
Whether as a country, suburban or city commercial lawyer you might consider becoming a Notary. Make the world your marketplace and every client is a fascinating narrative. It’s a unique and highly valued qualification that will provide many benefits.
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