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 which is a public office in common law jurisdiction that allows the office holder to administer oaths and perform certain witness functions.
In New York State there is an attempt to pass a law prohibiting notaries public from listing themselves as Notario Publico because individuals from Spanish speaking countries may confuse notaries public, who are only required to pass a short multiple choice test, with the individuals in their home countries who are usually the most knowledgeable professionals with years of advanced legal training qualified to give complex legal opinion and draft sophisticated legal texts. Such a law has existed for more than fifteen years in California.