New Zealand Law Society - Ken Lord talks about being a Notary Public

Ken Lord talks about being a Notary Public

Ken Lord talks about being a Notary Public

Ken Lord tells us about himself and his experience being a Notary Public to help raise awareness of the shortage of notaries in New Zealand, particularly in rural areas. To encourage others to become Notaries Public, Ken shares some insights.

My background

I joined Parry Field Lawyers in 1980 and became a partner that same year.

My focus was on Property and Personal law including trusts and asset planning with strong interests in issues relating to the charitable sector, assisting the elderly and charitable trusts.

As one of the authors of the LexisNexis Law of Trusts, I have written, and continue to review, the chapter devoted to charity law, as well as chapters in the LexisNexis publication The Law and Practice of Charities in New Zealand.

Graduating LLB from the University of Canterbury in 1977, I completed a BA in English and Russian literature in 2004, a BA Hons in 2020, and am now preparing for my master’s degree in English literature.

I have taken an active part in the New Zealand Law Society, having spoken at Law Society Conferences, been a member of property law committees, seminar/conference organisation and committees. I served as Convenor for the Trusts and Wills Committee, was a member of the Canterbury Westland NZLS Standards Committee, and a Mediator.

Retiring from the partnership in 2019, I remain a Consultant and Notary Public.

What does a Notary Public do?

The role of a notary includes witnessing signatures on contracts, birth registrations, powers of attorney and a multitude of other documents for use in many overseas countries, particularly in recent times, given current travel restrictions.

Notaries also certify copies of original documents, like passports, driver licences, and degrees and diplomas.

Becoming a notary

In 2013, I became a notary because a friend of mine was one for many years and suggested I do so. I am pleased I did, as I have found the work to be varied and interesting.

What appears to be simple can swiftly become complicated. In the words of Kathryn Burns, author of the research paper Notaries, Truth, and Consequences in The American Historical Review, notaries are “truth’s alchemists… [and provide] protection and gateways to the legal system”.

For example, I was involved with two contrasting tasks, the sale of a trading ship and retrieval of an old but much-loved vehicle from NZ customs.

For the sale of the trading ship, a notary was required by both the overseas vendors and purchasers to witness directors’ signatures on a contract for a ship sale worth millions of dollars. The notarial act was the final seal, following which the crews waiting at the local port could change hands, an example of the work of notaries as “crucial cogs” in commerce.

Just as satisfying was the ability to assist the occasional distraught car owner, one recently returned from Australia, whose car could not be released from customs until a notarial certificate evidenced enquiries by the notary with Australian authorities as to ownership, the owner having lost papers in the move, enabling release to the happy owner within a few hours.

In the same way as the notary Roderigo de Escobedo stood alongside Columbus as he ‘discovered’ America, documenting for the King and Queen of Spain, the evidence for Columbus’ incessant demands for more ships and resources, so the notary today must be the person on the spot to ensure, as far as possible, that what seems to be the case, whether it be an allegation of ownership, a degree, a passport, or a signature, is the truth.

Benefits of being a notary

The benefits are many and varied, including providing an important public service to a wide cross-section of the community.

Notarial fees are always less than the usual legal charge-out rates because notaries are providing a service to members of the public. However, notaries in New Zealand are appointed for life which means that notaries may continue to provide notary services well after retirement from or ceasing legal practice. Skills gleaned from the practice of the law are fully utilised as we draft our notarial certificates.

National and international collegiality is another benefit, including making friends with notaries from Australia, England, Singapore, Canada, USA and Europe at international conferences. A conference is planned for the Hague, Covid permitting.

Is it time to consider becoming a notary?

In New Zealand, there is a shortage of notaries, especially in rural areas. The current cohort of notaries is ideally in need of younger notaries, to ensure succession in the notary profession, and the Society of Notaries can continue to provide a comprehensive public service across New Zealand.

How to become a notary public

The process of becoming a notary, while not difficult, does take time, and money.
To become a notary, you apply to the New Zealand Society of Notaries to be admitted as a Notary to the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London.

You need to have 10 years’ experience as a lawyer and must have been a law firm partner or sole practitioner for at least 5 years. A Certificate of Good Standing must be obtained from the New Zealand Law Society.

If the application satisfies the Council of the New Zealand Society of Notaries’ criteria, all members are then asked to comment. If Council approves the application, the applicant must undertake a study course and undertake to remain a society member once they are a member.

An application is then made to the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, through the Faculty Office, accompanied by the written support of a substantial number of business, banking and professional people, who are not lawyers.

Once the faculty is granted, the Notary is sworn in by a High Court judge, joins the New Zealand Society, pays the fees, obtains their seals and press, and has their signature and seal sent to both the Society and the Department of Internal Affairs. They may then act as a notary.

See full details of how to apply to become a notary

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