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osbaldM

Switching to notary after obtaining lawyer license?

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I graduated from Mcgill Law and I'm in the process of applying for Ontario Lawyer License. Unfortunately I can't say I really enjoyed my study at all unlike my undergrad field that I'm actually passionate about (but the prospect of finding job in that field is quasi non-existent -my fellow friends either went abroad to teach English or doing part-time jobs completely unrelated to the field- which is what made me pursue law instead). I also did not enjoy working in law firm in the summer. So right now I'm seriously questioning my career choice but I at least want to go through the licensing process since I don't want the last 3.5 years to go to waste and just want to get over with it before reexamining my career choices. 

I was recently informed that lawyers in Ontario could directly apply to become notaries once they've obtained their license. Has anyone been through this? What made you do this and do you enjoy the field more than law? What's the financial prospect like? If it's not so great I'm thinking that I could at least just do it for awhile to earn a living while I search for alternative career, but if it's decent I might just stick to it. 

Being a notary just seems a lot more passive than being a lawyer. To be honest my personality is not at all suitable for being a lawyer who generally needs to be assertive and dominant, good at socializing etc. I'm much more of a bookish person and I would prefer staying in an office and stamping documents - even though it's a lot less intellectually challenging and stimulating than being a lawyer - than going to court and argue in front of a judge etc (I know that only some lawyers do that but I don't like working in a big law firm either). My personality kinda bars me from getting good articling positions in the big law firms as well so I might just do the Law training program to get over with the LSUC requirement. 

So yeah...I do regret a bit for carelessly picking a career path that does not fit with my personality at all, but it does seem having the license would open more opportunities, including those that are more compatible with my style. 

Appreciate your input and suggestions! Thanks for your time! 

Edited by osbaldM

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I think you need to get a better handle on terminology and the differences in legal roles between Quebec and Ontario. “Notary” does not have the same meaning or career path in Ontario that it does in Quebec. Similarly there are lawyers who do not appear in Court whose practices are “paperwork” based; they are called solicitors in Ontario. You can have the type of career you say you want while being a full fledged lawyer.

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I have very little knowledge of this field, so others feel free to chime in, but tax work might be right up your alley. If you don't like the big firm environment, doing tax work for small businesses in a smaller tax firm might be a decent way to go.

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In Ontario, a notary is someone who signs photocopies. It's not really a job. Just something lawyers do in the course of theirs.

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Notaries in civil jurisdictions are essentially solicitors in common law jurisdictions. McGill sort of has an anti-notary thing going on so there is very little info out there.

You need to do an additional training program (masters or diploma - both only offered en français) and then write the notary bar.

There are so many notaries. So many. The pay is already less than the meager salaries in QC (seriously. So many min wage positions for 1st year calls in Montreal at small firms). 

All Ontario lawyers are commissioner of oaths. All Ontario lawyers may apply to be a notary public though it is not automatic. As a commisioner, I can swear something as a true copy. A notarial stamp is more official. Thats pretty much all it is. And what a racket - some lawyers charge like 20$ a page to certify stuff.

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3 hours ago, artsydork said:

Notaries in civil jurisdictions are essentially solicitors in common law jurisdictions

They are also essentially solicitors in BC as well

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12 hours ago, Mountebank said:

In Ontario, a notary is someone who signs photocopies. It's not really a job. Just something lawyers do in the course of theirs.

No, it's more than that. Some lawyers treat being a commissioner or notary too cavalierly, not making sure they witness the signature etc.

The LSO has some info:

"...Under the Act, it appears that a lawyer who pays their annual fees at a lower fee category (i.e., 25% or 50%) or who is under a fee exemption (i.e., the lawyer has applied to the Law Society and been approved for a fee exemption because he or she is retired from the practice of law and over 65 years of age) may act as a notary.  If a lawyer charges a fee to act as a notary, he or she must be in the 50% or 100% fee-paying category.  No matter what the lawyer’s status, the lawyer should ensure that he or she does not provide any legal advice when exercising his or her authority as a notary unless the lawyer is authorized to do so...."

https://lso.ca/lawyers/practice-supports-and-resources/topics/the-lawyer-client-relationship/commissioner-for-taking-affidavits-and-notary-publ/lawyer-as-notary-public

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8 hours ago, epeeist said:

No, it's more than that. Some lawyers treat being a commissioner or notary too cavalierly, not making sure they witness the signature etc.

The LSO has some info:

"...Under the Act, it appears that a lawyer who pays their annual fees at a lower fee category (i.e., 25% or 50%) or who is under a fee exemption (i.e., the lawyer has applied to the Law Society and been approved for a fee exemption because he or she is retired from the practice of law and over 65 years of age) may act as a notary.  If a lawyer charges a fee to act as a notary, he or she must be in the 50% or 100% fee-paying category.  No matter what the lawyer’s status, the lawyer should ensure that he or she does not provide any legal advice when exercising his or her authority as a notary unless the lawyer is authorized to do so...."

https://lso.ca/lawyers/practice-supports-and-resources/topics/the-lawyer-client-relationship/commissioner-for-taking-affidavits-and-notary-publ/lawyer-as-notary-public

Mountebank gave a simplified answer for a confused student. Mounte didn't imply any wrongdoing - it's not a profession and it is a very routine and mundane and small aspect in the practice of law. 

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Notary duty is so mundane that it's assigned to the most junior associates on a rotation schedule because fuck if I'm going over to notarize something.

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I've had this conversation with my articling principal a couple of times after dealing with incredibly aggressive labor and personal injury lawyers. The majority of his practice has been solicitor-based and unlike lawyers with a litigation-based practice he does not need to be assertive, dominant, or adversarial. The same is true for me, although, I do a significant amount of litigation. My opinion is that those qualities are not an advantage when you are working in a more collaborative workplace (think some parts of the public sector) and can instead be a hindrance. 

I would suggest that you consider applying to in-house legal departments in the public sector and in departments where most of the work will not be litigation and will involve things more like drafting legislation and providing legal opinions to internal clients. To me, your problem seems to be with the culture of your previous firm and not with the law generally, so, in my view, I think you should now target your search for the type of law-related workplaces you would actually like to work at. 

To give you the idea of some of my days, sometimes I will spend an entire day in my office with the door closed and just write part of a factum. Some days I will be in meetings and in-court and will be talking to anyone who wants to listen. Different articling principals have different philosophies, so I would chock up your experiences to date as the example of the fact that different lawyers do law differently depending on the context. 

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On 2/27/2019 at 7:24 PM, artsydork said:

Mountebank gave a simplified answer for a confused student. Mounte didn't imply any wrongdoing - it's not a profession and it is a very routine and mundane and small aspect in the practice of law. 

I've known multiple - multiple, not just one or two - lawyers, including at downtown Toronto firms, who've screwed-up notarial or commissioner duties, including in matters they were acting for me personally. So when the topic is about what work notary publics do, I'm not sanguine about giving the message it's not a profession and very routine and mundane, because attitudes like that help lead to the sort of mistakes I've seen lawyers make. If one is a lawyer and acting as either a notary public or commissioner of oaths, one should take it seriously and do one's job properly. Or if one thinks it's stupid, don't do it. Just don't split the difference by half-assing it.

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23 minutes ago, epeeist said:

I've known multiple - multiple, not just one or two - lawyers, including at downtown Toronto firms, who've screwed-up notarial or commissioner duties, including in matters they were acting for me personally. So when the topic is about what work notary publics do, I'm not sanguine about giving the message it's not a profession and very routine and mundane, because attitudes like that help lead to the sort of mistakes I've seen lawyers make. If one is a lawyer and acting as either a notary public or commissioner of oaths, one should take it seriously and do one's job properly. Or if one thinks it's stupid, don't do it. Just don't split the difference by half-assing it.

And yet it still isn't a profession, is very routine, and is mundane. Regardless of some having screwed it up in the past and regardless of one's attitude (well, maybe not for the "mundane" part - some might really enjoy the shit out of notarizing docs). Like any other aspect of practice - if you're unsure, pull out the ol' notary/commissioner guidebook you get when you start articling and read up before (or hell, even while) you notarize something.

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"Including toronto downtown firms" as opposed to us classless townies in the outskirts? 

I digress, as a practicing full time litigator, meaning a shit ton of affidavits, commisioning is absolutely mundane. Just because something is mundane doesn't mean there aren't rules. Breaking those rules have consequences.  But yeah, despite your horrid experiences, doesn't mean that commissioning a document is anything special. Especially when a very confused QC student is asking for career advice about being an Ontario Notary. 

Fwiw, my assistants are also commisioner of oaths. They read a small document and filled out an application.

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3 hours ago, artsydork said:

"Including toronto downtown firms" as opposed to us classless townies in the outskirts? 

I digress, as a practicing full time litigator, meaning a shit ton of affidavits, commisioning is absolutely mundane. Just because something is mundane doesn't mean there aren't rules. Breaking those rules have consequences.  But yeah, despite your horrid experiences, doesn't mean that commissioning a document is anything special. Especially when a very confused QC student is asking for career advice about being an Ontario Notary. 

Fwiw, my assistants are also commisioner of oaths. They read a small document and filled out an application.

My boss suggested that you always have your assistants swear your client's oaths for affidavits. that way if the lawyer goes down to court with the client as a witness and they get crossed on the affidavit, they can't just say "I dunno, my lawyer wrote it and made me sign it". The assistants are gung-ho to make sure they don't get in shit for taking untrue affidavits and the lawyer can say that the client swore to an independent person that it was true.

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Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions! Really appreciate all the info! 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, artsydork said:

"Including toronto downtown firms" as opposed to us classless townies in the outskirts? 

I digress, as a practicing full time litigator, meaning a shit ton of affidavits, commisioning is absolutely mundane. Just because something is mundane doesn't mean there aren't rules. Breaking those rules have consequences.  But yeah, despite your horrid experiences, doesn't mean that commissioning a document is anything special. Especially when a very confused QC student is asking for career advice about being an Ontario Notary. 

Fwiw, my assistants are also commisioner of oaths. They read a small document and filled out an application.

If someone comes to you wanting something notarized for use in another country, do you just go ahead and do it? Or might there be something more to it? And, do you even ask whether it's for use domestically or in another country before going ahead?

EDIT and @setto

My reason for referencing downtown lawyers was actually denigrating some of them - as being too full of themselves to take their duties, however mundane, seriously - than those in other areas. Which I can do, because I'm downtown? :twisted:

Edited by epeeist

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The actual implication for anyone who reads it was that downtown lawyers are presumed to be better and less likely to screw up at their jobs. Nobody missed that you were denigrating them. The point was you set them up as already having higher standards than lawyers in the outskirts.

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Greater competition doesn't cause greater expectations? I would assume downtown lawyers are more competent than an outskirts lawyers on average because of the competition factor. If you want to start talking about microcosms, that's cool too. That's certainly a great way to approach life, but it's mentally taxing and inefficient.

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