What is the difference between a lawyer and a notary public?

November 9, 2015 | Published by

You may find yourself in a situation where you have a legal matter than can be handled by either a lawyer or a notary public, and you don’t quite know how to choose between the two. Here are some of the differences.

Notary Public

A notary public is limited to assisting with certain legal matters or services including real estate transfers (buying and selling), preparing a will, powers of attorney, representation agreements, notarizing documents and drafting affidavits. A notary public cannot deal with any contentious matters and cannot appear in court. Therefore if you had a family law or personal injury matter, a notary public would not be able to assist you.


Every lawyer in British Columbia is also a notary public. Therefore they can assist you with anything that a notary public can as well as represent you in any legal matter, whether it requires going to court or not.


To become a notary public in British Columbia, you must have an accredited university degree that is acceptable to The Society of Notaries Public of BC. Applicants must then be screened and tested. If the applicant is accepted, he or she is required to undertake the Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies degree at SFU, which is approximately 2 years. Applicants must then pass statutory admission examinations.

To become a lawyer in British Columbia, you must first have an accredited university degree, and generally have achieved a high GPA. The applicant must then challenge the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and score high enough to meet the threshold of the particular law school(s) he or she is applying to. Once the applicant has gained entry into law school, a law degree takes 3 years to complete. After finishing law school, a law grad must then complete his or her Articles. This is similar to a practicum. A law grad must apply to law firms in order to find an articling position, which lasts 9 months. Once the law grad has completed his or her articles, the next step is to complete the Professional Legal Training Course, which is only offered through the Law Society of British Columbia. At the end of this intensive course, the law grad must pass the bar exams.

Difference in Cost

A legal matter or service that can be handled by either a lawyer or a notary public will generally cost the same or a similar amount if they are located in the same area in British Columbia. It is generally a misconception that a notary public will be a lot less expensive as ultimately, like any business, you must remain competitive.

At Vancouver Downtown Notary, we are both lawyers and notaries public. Therefore we can assist you with any legal issue that you might have.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 778-819-8553 or email us at [email protected].