Lawyer vs. Notary Public: What is the Difference?

Lawyer vs. Notary Public:  What Is The Difference?

Whether purchasing or selling a property in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland you will require the services of a Lawyer or Notary for conveyance purposes.  This is one of the closing costs that needs to be considered when purchasing Real Estate.  For those uncertain what conveyancing is, it is the transfer of legal title of a property from one person to another.  That brings up the question: what is the difference between using a Lawyer or Notary for conveyancing?

The website for the Barristers & Solicitors Stevenson, Luchies & Legh ( describes the difference as follows:

“The simple answer to this common question is that notaries do not represent clients in court and cannot get involved in litigation.  Their work is restricted to certain non-contentious matters where those involved are in agreement, and often involves notarizing, or witnessing people’s signatures on documents.  Unlike lawyers, notaries can only provide legal advice or services on specific types of matters.  For example, they are not able to provide services related to family law issues, such as separation or divorce.  Notaries can provide services on matters including the preparation of wills, drafting affidavits, and notarizing documents.  Lawyers, on the other hand, may represent clients on all legal matters, inside and outside of the courtroom.

Another notable difference between lawyers and notaries is that lawyers generally must obtain two university degrees in order to be certified to practice law: an undergraduate degree and a law degree.  After graduating from law school, those hoping to become lawyers in British Columbia also have to complete the Professional Legal Training Course and article at a law firm for one year before they can practice law.  (Articling is similar to a practicum that medical students have to complete.)  Notaries are not required to have a law degree.

Although lawyers require more education and training than notaries, it is a common misconception that notaries charge less for services provided.  In many communities where there are both lawyers and notaries, the fees charged by both are competitive.”

The Notary Group ( describes the differences as:

“While notaries and lawyers both provide legal services to the public, notaries focus only on non-contentious issues such as real estate, estate planning, and other documentation.

We do not go to court on behalf of our clients, as lawyers do, nor can we provide services for certain other kinds of disputes, such as family relations issues (separations or divorces).

Notaries carry professional liability insurance, as do lawyers.

Another difference between Lawyers & Notaries may be the cost or fees charged for their services. There is no standard cost in the industry and these do vary from office to office, Lawyer to Lawyer, & Notary to Notary.  It definitely pays to shop around and find a Notary or Lawyer that you trust and is not too expensive.  

Notary Public Wendy Fuller in Vancouver, BC, had the following to say when interviewed for this blog:

“I enjoy spending the time with my clients to explain all documents that they are signing.  I want to make sure they know what they are signing & why.  Our (Notary) fees are often competitive and less than those of Lawyers.  In the end, I hope to build lasting relationships with my clients and will be here for them when they need me in the future, be it for Wills, Power of Attorney, Notarizing documents or my services with regards to the conveyancing of their property.”

The fees for the services of the Real Estate Lawyers Spagnuolo & Company can be found on their website.  As of November 7th, 2013 they were:

  • Sale of a Property starts at:  $500 + taxes (add $75 for each mortgage)
  • Purchase of a Property starts at:  $875 + taxes ($975 with mortgage)

In the end, choosing whether to use a Notary or a Lawyer for the conveyance of a property is a personal decision based on several factors (cost, complexity of deal/situation, trust or personal relationship, etc...).  One thing is certain though, just like you should have a trusted relationship with a decent Accountant and Real Estate Agent, you should also make sure you have a Lawyer or Notary (maybe both!) that you are able to call on for their professional services when needed.

Cortney Lessard – Century 21 In Town Realty

(604) 616- 2678 – -

Wendy Fuller, Notary Public can be contacted at 604-558-1141.  Her office is located at 1333 Homer Street, Vancouver, BC, V6B 5M9.  Her email is

*Please note that the prices quoted in this blog are all subject to change without notice.  The accuracy of these prices cannot be guaranteed by the writer of this blog or by Century 21.

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