Does Your Situation Need a Paralegal or a Notary?
by Jasmine Phan
It’s a very common question: “Do you need a paralegal or a notary, or both?”
And the answer is equally as common in being that, “well, it depends”. It comes down to the specifics of what you need to have done. Do you need someone to draft a document, such as a motion, complaint, a subpoena? Or do you need someone to witness a signature or administer an oath?
Neither a paralegal nor a notary can offer legal advice — only an attorney can do that. A paralegal, as defined by the American Bar Association (n.d., para. 2), “A person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible.”
The National Notary Association (n.d., para. 1), defines a notary as, “A Public Official commissioned by the state and bound by laws that hold them accountable for properly identifying signers, taking acknowledgments, administering oaths and maintaining records in the performance of their notarial acts. The Notary’s official commission and all attendant responsibilities belong exclusively to the Notary and no one else, including the Notary’s employer. Protecting the integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the Notary.”
What services to paralegals provide?
- Draft agreements, deposition notices, complaints, subpoenas, contracts, and briefs
- Assist clients in filling out legal forms
- Perform duties to assist attorneys
- Interact with clients
- Prepare memos and briefs at the attorney’s request
- Conduct legal research and analyze case law
- Draft reports for attorneys to determine how to handle a case
Based on state law, some paralegals work independently of an attorney to assist clients. That said, a paralegal cannot represent a client or provide legal advice of any kind.
Many paralegals have extensive legal experience as well as degrees in paralegal studies and other related fields.
What do notary publics do?
Notaries are commissioned by the state as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. A notary’s main duty is to verify the identity of the signer to be true, in order to prevent fraud. Notaries also administer oaths as one of their main duties.
A notary will also be knowledgeable of the documents being signed. They can answer basic questions regarding the language of most documents. They cannot advise the client or offer legal advice under any circumstance.
Is it a common misconception that if a document is notarized that the document’s language is somehow legal and enforceable because of the notarization. This is not true. The notarization confirms (to the best of the notary’s ability and as state law requires) that the signer is who they say they are and were of sound mind at the time of the signing.
Notaries must be neutral and impartial in their acts. A notary does not favor one party over the other and should not have any connection to the documents being executed.
Can a paralegal be a notary?
This is another common question and the answer is: “Yes!”
Is it very common that a paralegal is also a notary. There is a natural connection between the professions because paralegals often deal with documents that need to be notarized.
Many attorneys require that their paralegal becomes a notary so they can perform notarizations in-house when needed and appropriate. Many independent paralegals also become notaries because it widens the scope of services they can offer to potential clients.
Notary and paralegal services
As you can see, there are many reasons why someone would hire a paralegal, notary, or both. Regardless of what you need, National Paralegal & Notary has you covered for all your document signing needs. And as an added bonus, many of our notaries are also paralegals. Take a look at our paralegal services and document signing options.