In June of this year I was appointed as a notary - in response to a job advertisement in October 2019, so it took almost 3 years. A lot has happened during this time, including a rent cap and its judicial lifting, a corona pandemic with lockdowns, a federal election and the start of war in Eastern Europe. As a lawyer, I had my hands full and was therefore in no hurry, but at some point you want things to continue, and so I was very happy when I was finally appointed just before the summer holidays.
How do you set up a new notary office?
In Berlin, unlike in Brandenburg, for example, the so-called lawyer's notary's office applies. So I am now both: lawyer and notary. Looking at it from the outside, you might think that it's pretty close and actually just an extension of the previous one. Organizationally, that's not the case. The order has triggered a wealth of innovations in our law firm and requires new processes on a scale that, among other things, prevented me from finding time for this blog for quite a while.
For example, notarial files may not be kept in cloud software for data security reasons. Our lawyer software is cloud software, so it is incompatible. My office is equipped with Apple computers, but the common notary software runs (only) on a PC. A cross-departmental collision/preliminary check must be carried out for each file. Now put that together!
There are dozens of such topics: hardware encryption, signature cards, seals, money laundering check routines, data protection routines, registrations with the FIU, transparency register, land registries, notifications to the supervisory authority, the Berlin and the Federal Chamber of Notaries, authentic ink, documentation of the technical suitability of scanners, printers, copiers by device-related Certificates from the manufacturers, notarial-related confidentiality agreements with all service providers (tax consultants, payroll office, software providers, system administrators), changes to the letterhead, new bank accounts only for the notarial office. I even bought a document shredder for a four-figure sum so that paper waste leaves our office in 2 x 15 mm shreds.
The timing of my appointment was also a difficult one, because right now the biggest changes in professional law and the legal processes in the organization of notaries in recent decades are taking place: a new one Service regulations for notaries, a new ordinance on file management in times of digitization (NotAktVV), changes in Notarization Act and the Federal Notary Regulations and Digitization in corporate law. This is visible to the outside world, for example, in the fact that from 2022, documents will no longer have UR numbers (= roll of documents), but UVZ numbers (= list of documents). Behind the renaming there are significantly different organizational and storage structures, and because it is so new, there is not yet any literature for trainees that I could give my employees that explains how such a notary's office is to be run organizationally in the secretariat .
It's not easy to keep up with everything that's new when everything else is new too.
You need time for all of this. At the beginning of September, I hired an experienced tenancy law colleague, Amélie-Charlotte von Oppen, who supports me with her experience, her competence and considerable commitment in the legal files, so that I have the time to set up and run my notary's office.
Organization of workflows in a new notary's office
In the meantime, the physical structures have been set up to such an extent that we can begin to work on the content. What is now missing is a specialist for the secretariat. That's difficult in Berlin, so far we haven't found anyone.
In this way, my employee Ms. Marx from the legal secretariat and I learn step by step what is necessary to prepare documents correctly and to process them correctly after notarization. On the one hand, the lack of routine in these things means that we are slow - the first certification of signatures (fee: 20 euros), for example, kept us both busy for a whole working day, because we use it to look at the processes in the Register of documents of the Federal Chamber of Notaries, the sealing, the completely different fee regulations, including the right to appeal in cost accounting and other things. On the other hand, the lack of routine also leads to enormous attention to every little thing and to an extremely steep learning curve on every single working day. We're gradually becoming more familiar with these things, have we done one or the other before and know how to do it or have a template.
Thematic expansion and new areas of law
In addition to the purely technical processes, there is another very pleasant aspect for me personally: notarial services do not only apply to real estate. No, I won't betray my passion for real estate law, but expanding your professional horizons at work is really interesting! In the last 4 weeks, for example, in addition to various signature certifications for various concerns, we have had such diverse topics as the founding of a company, powers of attorney, an application for a certificate of inheritance and a donation. The purchase of a plot of land along with the ordering of a land charge was also included and more are in preparation. In December I will be one of two notaries Plettner and Brecht auctions to accompany.
At the beginning I was afraid that this unaccustomed range would present me with professional challenges that would not be easy to master.
To my surprise it is not. Yes, the content work is demanding. The general conditions that led me here, however, have ensured that I am able to cope with it: in front of the notarial examinations in autumn 2018 and spring 2019 there were time-consuming courses with experienced notaries as speakers. The level of the later exams demanded a lot from me in the preparation. Then there were (more than) 160 hours of practical training colleague Harald Nieber. Since the courses, I have also continuously studied the relevant specialist literature out of respect for the task, but also out of curiosity. Finally, as a Berliner, I have the advantage that the annual September event takes place Annual notarial workshop organized in the Maritimhotel in Friedrichstraße in recent years, so I don't have to travel anywhere and can stay at home during the conference. The speakers at the three-day conference are top-class: judges from the BGH senates in the various areas of law, notaries with an impressive reputation, some as authors of relevant standard comments, leaders from the Federal Chamber of Notaries. When speakers like this report on innovations or changes, give practical advice and chat about tricks out of the box, it's inevitable that you'll learn something.
The new everyday work as a lawyer and notary
All these framework conditions result in an exciting new working day. With respect for the demanding tasks, with care, slowly, step by step in the notarial matters, and in parallel with the experience and routine of two decades, the law firm continues at full speed in the processes and extrajudicial disputes in tenancy law, brokerage law and real estate law.
One benefits from the other. I think my lawyer's eye makes me a better notary, because for 20 years I've repeatedly had the task of "cracking" deeds, i.e. finding weak points in wording or other interpretation options than those preferred by the opponent, in order to work for my clients to be able to lead a legally advantageous argument. As a notary, this now helps me to formulate solid arrangements in deed transactions. Conversely, my notarial training makes me a better lawyer, because I am more familiar with formal issues, closer to legal innovations or changes in case law, and develop a cross-sectoral view that would not be available if I only focused on real estate law. The notarial examinations assumed that: an estate insolvency for the assets of a real estate owner who was also a partner in a limited liability company, which had a notice of surrender in the land register in the event that a condition that was not specifically regulated occurs, who was in the process of divorce and on the basis of a handwritten testament was inherited by a minor - such tasks cover a number of areas of law at once and cannot be assessed without at least rudimentary knowledge of all of them.
Even if I haven't come across such frequently complex cases in practice, there are always some that overlap with at least a second area of law. The fact that I have theoretically dealt with notarial issues across all areas of law helps with the assessment when I am confronted with corresponding cases as a lawyer.
What are the next steps?
As nice as it is to build everything from scratch, step by step, I would have a trained and experienced one notary clerk very happy. If you happen to be one of those and are reorienting yourself professionally, please send me an application by email at email@example.com.
In the future I will expand this blog thematically. There will now also be contributions from a notarial point of view, in which I will provide factual information on relevant topics with the necessary restraint. At the same time, of course, our legal department continues, and there is still a lot happening in case law and politics that is relevant for real estate owners. I will continue to do this as usual.
Lawyer and notary