For some time now, the Law Society and the Notaries Society have been exploring the possibility of a merger. Nothing concrete has been decided, and what the merged society would look like is not yet known. But I’m encouraged by the fact that we have overcome historical differences to co-operate in amicable discussions.

A possible merger is uncharted territory for the Law Society, and if there’s one thing we’re all afraid of, it’s the unknown. But while lawyers may feel apprehensive about a possible merger with notaries, many of their concerns can easily be addressed.

Lawyers might worry that their proud history of independence in BC would be threatened by a merger. In fact, a merged society would mean bringing approximately 330 notaries under the umbrella of the more than 11,000-strong Law Society.

And speaking of a proud history, notaries can trace their lineage in BC back at least as far as lawyers. In fact, the notary profession was legally recognized in BC in 1872, two years before the Legal Profession Act provided for the incorporation of the Law Society and gave its Benchers authority to set qualifications and regulate the profession.

The Law Society is rightfully proud of the high standard it sets for lawyers’ education and qualifications, and the Notaries Society is no less demanding of its members. Notaries in BC must now complete not only an undergraduate university degree, but a graduate degree in Applied Legal Studies at Simon Fraser University. Upon completion, notaries must take six weeks of training, followed by a three-week mentorship. Then before they can be accepted into the profession they must pass a standard examination.

The Notaries Act specifies services notaries can provide, including real estate conveyancing, drafting wills and preparing mortgage agreements. Notaries are specifically trained in these skills, and are prepared to do the work.

No hard and fast decisions have been made as the Law Society and the Notaries Society continue to explore common ground. But whatever the outcome of the discussions, if there’s an opportunity to create efficiencies in the regulation of legal services, while at the same time protecting the public interest and ensuring the independence and integrity of lawyers, what’s to be afraid of?

I know there’s a wide range of opinion on the topic, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me by contacting me at president@lsbc.org.