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Definitions on the web:
A notary public (or notary or public notary) in the common law world is a public officer constituted by law to serve the public in non-contentious matters usually concerned with estates, deeds, powers-of-attorney, and foreign and international business. A notary's main functions are to administer oaths and affirmations, take affidavits and statutory declarations, witness and authenticate the execution of certain classes of documents, take acknowledgments of deeds and other conveyances, protest notes and bills of exchange, provide notice of foreign drafts, prepare marine or ship's protests in cases of damage, provide exemplifications and notarial copies, and perform certain other official acts depending on the jurisdiction. Any such act is known as a notarization. The term notary public only refers to common-law notaries and should not be confused with civil-law notaries.
Civil-law notaries, or Latin notaries, are lawyers of voluntary private civil law who draft, take, and record legal instruments for private parties, provide legal advice and give attendance in person, and are vested as public officers with the authentication power of the State. Unlike notaries public, their common-law counterparts, civil-law notaries are highly-trained, licensed practitioners providing a full range of regulated legal services, and whereas they hold a public office, they nonetheless operate usually – but not always – in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis. They often receive the same education as advocates at civil law, trial lawyers, or any professional litigator but without qualifications in advocacy, procedural law, or the law of evidence, analogous to solicitor training in common-law countries.
Civil-law notaries are limited to areas of private law, that is, domestic law which regulates the relationships between individuals and in which the State is not directly concerned. The most common areas of practice for civil-law notaries are in residential and commercial conveyancing and registration, contract drafting, business engagements, transactions, successions and estate planning, and powers of attorney. Ordinarily, they have no authority to appear in court on their client's behalf; their role is limited to drafting, authenticating, and registering certain types of transactional or legal instruments.
Notaries generally hold undergraduate degrees in civil law and graduate degrees in notarial law. Notarial law involves expertise in a broad spectrum of private law including family law, estate and testamentary law, conveyancing and property law, the law of agency, and contract and business law. Student notaries must complete a long apprenticeship or articled clerkship as a trainee notary and usually spend some years as a junior associate in a notarial firm before working as a partner or opening a private practice. Any such practice is usually tightly regulated, and most countries parcel out areas into notarial districts with a set number of notary positions. This has the effect of making notarial appointments very limited.