Let’s face it: Hiring a lawyer is a large investment for most people. As public servants, lawyers give you their time, expertise, and legal advice on your case and/or situation. But:

  • What if you do not necessarily need to go to court?
  • What if you just need legal documents prepared and executed?
  • Is a lawyer your best option?

One alternative you may want to consider would be finding a local notary public near you. A notary public can be a cost-effective alternative that can take care of your legal documentation. However, there are limitations that a notary has when it comes to discussing your legal options. So, which do you need in your specific situation? First, let’s go through what each type of professional does specifically

Louisiana Notary Public:

A notary is a licensed signer and/or drafter of legal and other important documents. They also screen all of the parties signing the documentation for their true identity, their true intentions in signing the documents, as well as making sure that all parties of aware of the contents of the documentation. These public officials must have a clear and broad understanding of legal matter, and are required to pass a test proving so, which is administered by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. Because the term of a Louisiana notary is for life, they are required to keep up with the dynamic laws of the State of Louisiana. 

Specifically, a person becomes a notary by first meeting a set of requirements to be eligible. These requirements include things like being of legal age (21), being a resident citizen or alien of Louisiana, being a resident of the parish in which they are seeking the license, being a non-felon, and others. After meeting those requirements and paying the required fees to the Secretary of State, notary hopefuls must turn in an “Application to Qualify” and take a pre-assessment test. They must pass the state notary exam given only twice a year, take oaths of office, and turn in all required paperwork including bonds. At this point, they are an official notary public for the state of Louisiana.

A licensed notary in the State of Louisiana can execute the following and more:

  • Administer oaths
  • Receive wills and marriage contracts
  • Certify copies of birth certificates and other documents
  • Complete acts of sale, donation, exchange, adoption, etc.

The power that notaries hold is similar to the allowances of lawyers in other states. However, there are limits to what services a notary public can provide when it comes to legal services. Essentially, they are not allowed to provide any advice or guidance at all on the documents provided.

Louisiana Lawyers with Notary Privileges:

In the state of Louisiana, a lawyer is licensed to practice law and uphold the law. Lawyers can represent a client or clients in and out of the court setting and advise them of their legal rights for such. They conduct legal research that will best assist their client, and they execute documents needed for the client. They are the point of contact for the client with other lawyers or judges, along with advocating for them in court. In order to become a lawyer in the State of Louisiana, one must complete an undergraduate degree plan and take and pass the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT,. Upon completion, they must continue onto complete law school at an American Bar Association(ABA)-accredited school. Law school usually requires an additional 2-3 years of classes and may require an internship of some kind. After which, lawyer hopefuls will take the State Bar Exam, and passing of such exam will give them the title of lawyer and member of the Louisiana Bar! 

However, in order to maintain their license, they must complete a certain amount of continuing legal education during their first year of practice. In similarity to a notary, lawyers must also remain up-to-date of ever-changing laws in the State of Louisiana in order to properly serve their clients. Because lawyers have completed these steps, they are not required to sit for the state notary exam, but still need to submit the correct paperwork and take the oath of office through the Secretary of State’s office.

Both lawyers and notaries can complete the same documentation. However, there are some differences between the two that are worth nothing:

  • There is no set price for law services nor notary services set by the State of Louisiana. Lawyers in Louisiana usually charge an up-front retainer fee, as well as charging for their services by the hour. If your case is rather in-depth, this can become quite costly. When using a notary, their price is discretionary and is usually not charged by the hour, but rather, by the type of work being done.
  • A lawyer must be commissioned as a notary, and is not simply given such upon receiving their law degree. A non-attorney notary must take the state test to become a notary, while an attorney does not have to take such test. Although, lawyers do take several other types of test throughout law school and college in general.
  • Though a lawyer may be commissioned as a notary, a notary cannot be commissioned as a lawyer. A notary is not legally allowed to provide a client with legal advice nor represent them in court. A lawyer, however, can provide dual services.
  • A notary public usually works on their own schedules, which can include after-hour and weekend services. A lawyer usually has a set schedule for visits and consultations. A notary can provide services within your home or office, whereas most lawyer-client interactions take place within a lawyer’s office or court setting.

In summary, if the documentation you need notarized is simple, going to a notary public is likely all you need. However, if you are starting a business, drafting a will, officializing complex legal documents, or if you require representation in court or legal advice, hiring a notary-commissioned lawyer can

provide you with services of a lawyer and a notary. In business, specifically Partnership agreements, we highly recommend attorney services for the drafting of documents so the paperwork is legally correct and will stand up in court if the Partnership ever wished to dissolve. 

If you are looking for a notary, lawyer, or need advice on which one is best for your needs, give Latiolais Law Firm a call! Emily will help guide you to the right services that you need!