Civil law notaries are trained jurists who often receive the same training as advocating jurists — those with a legal education who become litigators such as barristers in the United Kingdom or avocats in France.
Civil law notaries are usually limited to areas of private law — that law which resolves between private individuals and involves minimal or no state
intervention. The most common areas of practice for civil law notaries are in property conveyancing and registration, contract drafting, commercial transactions, successions and other estate related matters. They usually have no authority to appear before tribunals or courts on behalf of their clients. In some jurisdictions such as France they also maintain the official registration of property records, en minute (in minute form).
A civil law notary should not be confused with a notary public in the United States, which has none of the legal powers which civil law notaries possess. Rather, notaries public simply have the power to take oaths or affirmations from witnesses, usually in connection with legal documents. For this reason, immigrants from civil-law countries where civil law notaries exist, particularly those from Spanish-speaking nations, are often confused by the office of notary public and have been defrauded by dishonest notaries holding themselves out as having greater powers than they actually do. Thus, in some states there have been ongoing efforts to prohibit notaries public from listing themselves as Notario Publico. Such a law has existed for more than fifteen years in California.