The difference between a solicitor and notary public

Often when asked to undertake a certain type of work there is a lack of knowledge as to who actually needs to undertake the work required. The legal world is full of terminology that many don’t understand and the world surround legal work is no different. One of these terms you may have come across is that of ‘notary public’, but what does it mean? What does a notary public do? When might you use a notary public rather than a solicitor? Let’s look at what a notary public does, and how it is different from that of a solicitor.

Topics to be answered in this article

What is Notary Public?

A notary public is an individual who has the legal ability to notarise documents. They frequently specialise in international legal matters, or those that involve documents that are obtained from, or being sent overseas. A notary public can witness signatures, authenticate documents, and prepare legally valid copies of paperwork.

A legal officer can then verify that documents have been sealed and signed by a notary public, regardless of where they have come from in the world. A notary’s seal and signature are internationally recognised by the law in these situations.

A notary public is usually someone who has specialised in this area after first becoming a fully qualified lawyer. Whilst it is possible for an individual to be trained and qualified as both a solicitor and a notary public, and carry out the duties of both, this is not common. It is also possible to become a Notary Public without first becoming a lawyer, but this route is extremely rare.

According to The Notaries Society, there are approximately 775 notaries in England and Wales. They are much less common in the legal industry comparatively to solicitors. Goughs have our very own Notary Public, Notary Public, Isabel Figueiredo. Isabel qualified in 2009 and her work includes preparing and witnessing powers of attorney, corporate records, and contracts for use overseas.

When would you need a Notary Public?

Many legal documents specify that a notary public will be needed to notarise it. This is most common when dealing with documents from overseas, and as such the services of a Notary Public are crucial to international legal matters. Other examples include authenticating personal documents in order to marry abroad, work outside of the UK, or for immigration and emigration purposes.

What is a Solicitor?

A solicitor is a type of lawyer who provides specialist legal advice on different areas of law and is responsible for representing and defending a client’s legal interest; family law, employment law, property and real estate law are example areas of law. Whilst it is a solicitor’s legal duty to ensure that everything is written up and documented correctly, to the standards expected by the law, a solicitor represents a client and as such is not independent. This is different from a notary public, who must act independently of an individual client.

What are the key differences between a Solicitor and Notary Public?

The main difference between a solicitor and a notary is the qualifications and training, the specialism and the primary duty but most importantly and the big difference between a solicitor and a notary, is that any work undertaken. A notary is done with the view of the act that they are performing is recognized abroad or overseas whereas a solicitor only deals with matters relating to the UK.


  • Large numbers within the legal profession
  • Deals with a wide range of legal matters
  • Represent a client on one side of a dispute.

Notary Public

  • Much rarer in the legal industry
  • Mostly deal with international documents
  • Must be impartial in disputes, cannot represent an individual
  • Have international authority to authenticate documents

How can Goughs help?

As well as having a range of experienced solicitors covering a wide variety of legal areas, Goughs also have a qualified notary public, Isabel Figueiredo. If you have a requirement for a notary public, or want to find out more about their role, she would be delighted to hear from you. Either email her at or give her a ring on 01249 810 880. Alternatively, you can contact the wider team to discuss how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Author Bio

Isabel Figueiredo

I grew up in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2000 to join my family. I initially studied law at the College of Law London, and later completed my training in London.

In 2007, I moved to Wiltshire and joined Goughs as a Solicitor on the Residential Property Team. In 2009 I progressed to Associate, and only a few years later became a Partner.

I have always been proud of providing a very high quality of personal service to my clients. With my assistance, my clients have been able to make their lifetime investment, whether buying their new home or stepping onto the property ladder for the first time.

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