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My Opinion

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Many paralegals view notary skills as client and career pluses.

By Heidi Lowry

 

Notary services are necessary in a variety of instances. But is it worth it for a paralegal to obtain a notary certificate? According to LAT’s most recent My Opinion survey, the answer is yes. The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (86.3 percent) said they are notary publics, while only 13.7 said they are not. Of those that are nota­ries, 78.5 percent have been notaries for more than five years; 17 percent have been notaries for one to five years; and 4.5 percent have been notaries for less than one year.

Respondents became notaries for a variety of reasons. Thirty-four percent said it’s convenient as a paralegal to also be a notary; 26.4 percent were encouraged to become notaries by their employers; 20.8 percent became notaries to enhance their careers; and, of those respondents who have obtained their notary certificate, employers required it of 16 percent of them, while 2.8 percent had other reasons for their decision.

“Being a notary public definitely gives you a leg up when competing for a job,” said Cindy J. Geib, ACP, a 16-year paralegal from Manheim, Pa. “I always recommend to the paralegal students in my local association and those I speak before in various presentations at the local college that they get commission when they are ready to enter the job market.”

The survey also found that a majority of employers offer incentives for becoming a notary, with 55.7 percent of employers paying all costs and only 37.2 percent offering no incentives, while 5.2 percent of respondents said they didn’t know if their employers offered incentives. Charla McDermott, a 16-year paralegal from Hartford, Conn., believes that lawyers prefer it when paralegals also are notary publics for practical purposes. “Being a notary is sometimes very convenient for our clients who have to sign interrogatories and have no idea where to look for a notary. Our lawyers also like this convenience for affidavits,” McDermott said.

Survey results indicate that of paralegals who have become notaries, most of them plan to renew their licenses (94.3 percent). “I view being a notary as part of the service we provide our clients,” said Deana M. Waters, an 8-year advanced certified paralegal from Fairbanks, Ala. “In one case, I had to go to the home of a homebound client to review his discovery answers and obtain his signature on the verification. My being a notary saved the client from making a trip into our office or having to pay for an additional person [to] go to his home.”

Among the respondents who are not notaries, 18.8 percent said they don’t need it for their current job and another 18.8 percent stated that they don’t have enough time to take the necessary steps to become a notary. A heavy workload prevents 12.5 percent of respondents from becoming notaries and another 12.5 percent have never found it necessary for their careers. For 6.2 percent of respondents, the liability of being a notary is undesired, while 31.2 percent have other reasons for not becoming a notary.

Of those that indicated they currently are not notaries, 42.9 percent said they don’t have plans to become notaries, 35.7 percent don’t know if they will obtain a notary certificate and 21.4 percent plan to become notaries in the future. To some respondents, notary responsibilities don’t represent a wise time investment for more seasoned paralegals and can interrupt the flow of work. “The task of notarizing involves a lot of waiting around for documents to be signed — time that I can spend doing real work,” said an 8-year paralegal from New York. “It’s a good task for new paralegals or professionals in training, so they can observe the processes of a closing while still being somewhat productive in the process.”

Other respondents felt the decision to be a notary is one that only can be based on the circumstances at a particular firm, and not on positive or negative traits of the notary function. “[Y]ears and years ago … notaries were significantly paralegals. As the years progressed, secretaries and administrative assistants have become notaries as well,” said Laura Ahtes, AACP, RP, a 20-year paralegal from Wilmington, Del., who didn’t renew her notary public title because three assistants at her firm are notaries. “I feel that it is a work-related decision whether or not to become a notary…. [D]o you notarize documents daily or monthly? How much will you actually use your notary public seal in the field you are practicing as a paralegal? These are the deciding factors.”   

 

Survey Results

Are you a notary public?

     Yes: 86.3%

     No: 13.7%

 

If yes, how long have you been a notary?

     Less than one year: 4.5%

     One to five years: 17.0%

     More than five years: 78.5%

 

If you are not a notary now, do you have plans to become one in the future?

     Yes: 21.4%

     No: 42.9%

     I don't know: 35.7% 

 

If you currently are a notary, do you plan to renew your license?

     Yes: 94.3%

     No: 1.1%

     I don't know: 4.6% 

 

Total survey responses: 83

  

 

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