The Law, Legal Opinions, Legal Advice, and Notaries Public

A Legal Opinion or Legal Advice can only be given by a lawyer because only a lawyer has access to all the necessary information and resources to know what the law is on a given subject in a given jurisdiction.

Most people believe that “the law” consists of whatever bills have passed the legislature and been signed by the executive (mayor, governor or President). That is only the Statutory Law. The term “the law” refers to a range of rules which include:

  • state and federal constitutions,
  • the statutory law,
  • administrative rules & regulations & policies from whatever state or federal agencies may be charged with enforcing or administering the statutory law,
  • administrative court rulings,
  • judicial court rulings, and
  • common law.

It may also include treaties and other international agreements, as well as legal opinions and official opinions issued by Attorney Generals or Secretaries of State or other government officials.

Anyone who is not an attorney (or a paralegal working under the supervision of an attorney) is very unlikely to have access to the full range of resources necessary to know what the law on a given subject may be. As the law evolves and changes over time with each new statutory law passed, each new court case, each new bureau regulation, and so forth, simply having access to what may be posted online or available in a local library is not enough to know what the law is.

The range of subjects covered within the law is so vast that attorneys tend to specialize within a small number of areas and to get continuing legal education in those areas. This allows them to become experts in their chosen areas and to (at least potentially) keep up with the changes that occur in the law in those areas.

Some areas do not generate enough client interest to merit a sustained devotion to them. So, you will be unlikely to find an attorney who is a Notary law specialist, but there are many whose work requires Notaries, which means they are generally familiar with the law for Tennessee Notaries and can do the research to render a Legal Opinion if one is requested. If you have any questions about a document that is going to be Notarized or about Notary practices, consult an attorney for an official Legal Opinion.

An official Legal Opinion is an indication that the attorney who issued it has researched the various applicable rules and has determined that, in their professional opinion, the law on the subject in question is as described in their Legal Opinion.

An official Legal Opinion should be given in writing on the attorney’s firm’s letterhead and signed and dated by the attorney. Such a document is evidence that you sought proper legal advice before proceeding and may well protect you from problems as you go about your business.

Legal Advice is based on a legal opinion issued by a lawyer who knows the law in a given area and can tell you what the consequences or repercussions of taking a particular action may be. They can weigh those consequences against the results you are seeking to achieve and can give you an educated guess as to whether taking a particular course of action is likely to get those results, based on their understanding of the law. Legal advice is useful so that you can get the results you are hoping to get in a legal matter. As with an official Legal Opinion, any official Legal Advice should be given in writing on the law firm’s letterhead and signed and dated by the attorney as evidence of what the Advice contains.

So, when a Notary Public who is not an attorney tells you that they can not give you Legal Advice or a Legal Opinion, this is why. It is not that the Notary Public is afraid of practicing law — they are not going to be practicing law because they literally can not give you a legal opinion, as they lack the knowledge or resources to do so. And, if they can not give a legal opinion, they certainly can not give legal advice.


About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed. Mobile Notary Public and Signing Agent, Freelance Writer, and Ordained Minister. Willing servant to cats. Science fiction and fantasy fan, avid reader, Founder of the Darrell Awards. Author of _Getting Started As A Notary Signing Agent_ (available from Please be kind to one another.
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