Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Compared to the legal profession found in the United States, in Latin countries an impartial counsel who advises all parties to a transaction is located at the top of the legal hierarchy and is referred to as the Latin notary. The Latin notary is granted exclusive power to perform certain legal functions such as memorialization of transactions. The Latin notary combines the competence traditionally associated with a public official and the discretion and responsibility of a private legal professional. For these reasons, the Latin notary is quite different from notaries public in the United States. The Latin notary owes a duty to the transaction, rather than to a party; she provides a service to interested parties, not to clients. Because of the nature of this legal specialization, the Latin notariat is an important profession which has yet to be thoroughly examined in our legal scholarship.

This Article explores the historical development of the Latin notariat, describes the profession and practice as they exist today, and compares the role of the notariat to notaries as they exist in other parts of the world. Additionally, this Article resurrects the celebrated words of Justice Louis Brandeis that one be "counsel for the situation" and illustrates how the role of the Latin notary is perhaps what was meant by that statement.