December 03, 2019

Paralegals Are “Value Added” When It Comes to New Notary Laws

Vince Holzhall, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Columbus, OH

For notaries, “the times they are a changing.”  Because I am an Ohio lawyer (and notary), I learned over the summer that on September 20, 2019, the “Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act” was becoming effective.  Like summer, that time has now come and gone.  Post September 20th, I am only allowed to perform “traditional” notarizations (crimp or wet stamp on paper documents with person signing in front of me).  I may continue doing these “traditional” notarizations because I was “grandfathered in” under the new Ohio law.  However, unless I take certain 4-hour classes, pass a test, and pay additional fees, I will not be allowed to do electronic notarial seals and/or online or remote notarizations.  That is okay by me because we have outstanding paralegals in my office who have seized the opportunity to become value-added professionals for our firm and our clients, while at the same time expanding their skill set.

A paralegal capable of notarizing documents electronically, online, and/or remotely is an added asset to a law firm or other legal employer.  The cost savings to the client (in terms of legal fees and travel time) is significant when the signer can be located somewhere other than a law firm conference room sitting across from the notary.  More importantly, for those paralegals serving clients who have a spouse, child, or parent overseas (e.g., serving in the military, attending a study-abroad program), the ability to do a remote notarization of a vehicle title transfer, a beneficiary designation, or a real estate document in a residential home sale may be the difference between getting a transaction completed in a timely manner versus having to wait for that person to come back “home.”  (A visit to the lawyer’s office to sign legal papers will not likely be at the top of the “to do” list when back in the U.S.)

New notary laws require additional courses, tests, and fees in order to perform electronic notarial seals and/or online or remote notarizations.

New notary laws require additional courses, tests, and fees in order to perform electronic notarial seals and/or online or remote notarizations.

As you might imagine, Ohio is not alone in adopting or considering expansion of notary laws to include electronic, online, and/or remote notarizations.  For illustration purposes, currently the following states have adopted or are considering modernizing their notary laws:  Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas , Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

With these changing laws, paralegals can become more valuable in the workplace.  Research what your jurisdiction is doing in terms of electronic notarial seals and online or remote notarizations.  Legal employers will appreciate it, clients will save some time and money, and you will have expanded your knowledge base and skill set.