Lawyers are all university educated individuals who have gone through a rigorous selection, training and examination process to eventually earn their law license to practice law. All provinces with the exception of Quebec require that students obtain an undergraduate university degree before being allowed to even apply to law school. There are relatively few law schools in Canada, so the application and entry to law schools is quite competitive relative to the number of people who apply. So, it is safe to say that most lawyers have studied for at least 7 years in an accredited university institution before being permitted to write the very difficult bar exam, which must be passed in order to obtain a license to practice law. In addition, a student-at-law is also required to complete a competitive articling program before the law society will even consider issuing him or her a law license. In fact, it is interesting to note that lawyers are all automatically notary publics, something that cannot be said for notaries.
Notary publics, on the other hand, are not necessarily university educated. Notaries all must have a high school diploma, but the training given to individuals who want to be notaries can be anywhere from a six-month to a two-year course. Once the course is completed, an exam must be taken and passed in order to earn a notary public license. There are no articling requirements in order to obtain the notary license. Some notaries may have already earned a university degree, but it is not a requirement, with the exception of the province of Quebec where it is a requirement to hold an undergraduate degree in Civil Law, where afterwards a one year Master.s degree must be earned in notarial law.
Notaries are limited in terms of the legal services they may offer to the public. Notary publics can assist their clients with the notarizing or certifying of documents, swearing affidavits, preparing wills and contracts, assisting with certain real estate transactions, and other related legal services. Lawyers, on the other hand, are not limited in terms of the legal services they may offer and are permitted to offer legal services in all aspects of the legal system. See question .What can tax lawyer do for me?. for a detailed account of the legal services a tax lawyer can provide.
Last but certainly not least, tax lawyers, and any other lawyer for that matter, can offer complete confidentiality since whatever is said or written to a tax lawyer is protected by lawyer-client privilege or attorney-client privilege, as it is also referred, even if the client simply consulted with the lawyer and never actually hired said lawyer to represent him or her. This confidentiality is crucial if the taxpayer believes he or she may have committed an unlawful act and needs to find out what their options are without fear of incriminating him or herself. A lawyer cannot be forced to divulge confidential information to the Canada Revenue Agency or any other governmental body, and of course, a lawyer cannot be compelled to testify against anyone who has consulted him or her in a legal capacity.