If you own a small business, you might occasionally need documents notarized. After seeing the price tag on their services, though, it might be tempting to change industries. Their fees often can get up to the HK$1000s for as little work as a single signature. The process of becoming a notary public, and joining their society, reveals why: it is long, difficult, expensive, and often seemingly intentionally confusing.

The most restrictive requirement is the prerequisite: being a long practicing, active solicitor. You also have to be well connected enough to find signatories for a “Letter of Support”, including other lawyers and judges.

Both requirements are difficult but doable, yet as of 2017 June, there are a total of only 379 notaries public, while there are almost 10,000 lawyers. Why? The exam is a huge challenge, even for some of the most highly educated people in Hong Kong. At the last exam, in 2015, 241 highly experienced lawyers took it. 22 passed.  

If you pass the literal and figurative tests demanded by the Society of Notaries, you still must apply, which is a challenge in itself. There are two separate applications for your license, a required application to the Society of Notaries, and an application to be allowed to practice, each with paperwork and, of course, fees. The total monetary cost: greater than HK$80000.

If you manage to complete the marathon application, though, you’re inducted into a highly prestigious, lucrative, and powerful society. Our later blogs will outline the process of becoming licensed, so check our blog for more information.

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