In many states attorneys receive a notary commission without having to pass an examination. While notarizing a document is often something that is viewed as more of an administrative task, attorneys who engage in sloppy notary practice may find themselves facing disciplinary action or other liability. It is easy to view notarizing a document as simply a formality, but each affidavit or verification is a sworn legal document and notarizing same could have serious implications for the signer, notary and the lawyer who prepared the document.
If an attorney pressures an employee to notarize a document improperly, she may be violating the rules of professional conduct. While it may not seem like common practice, it is happening more often that one might expect. For example, a senior partner in a large firm asks a young associate to notarize a document in a large case, however, the document was signed prior to the young associate’s involvement. The young associate notarizes or asks a paralegal to notarize the document. In determining whether the young associate has engaged in improper notary practice it is necessary to consult the law of the state. In some states notaries must verify that the document was signed in his or her presence. In other states it is the simple matter of verifying the signature even if there was no personal appearance.
In an effort to adhere to the rules of professional conduct, the young associate’s best bet in this type of situation would be to draft a new document for the person to sign in the presence of the notary. Contact our office to discuss your potential legal malpractice claim.