623-year-old law forces solicitor to move offices

A MEDIEVAL law, dating back to 1373, has forced a London solicitor who wants to become a notary public to move his business offices out of central London.

Mark Smith of Prince Evans solicitors has had to move his office to Ealing in West London because of a law governed by the medieval guild of scrivener notaries which states that notaries public cannot practise within three miles of the City of London.

The Worshipful Company of Scriveners say that they have solely enjoyed the privilege of being able to practise in London for so long time as their skills are unique.

They claim that no solicitor who passes the examination in notarial practice has the skills tested by the scrivener examinations. This includes private Roman law, mercantile law and foreign languages.

Mark Smith said: “It's odd to make such a claim. The missing subjects are not particularly abstruse and might easily have been studied in your first degree. Many solicitors have language degrees or are bilingual. Also many parts of London have international links.”

Walter Merricks, director of the professional and legal policy directorate at the Law Society, said: “As far as I am aware, Mark Smith is the only solicitor who is affected by the rules at the moment. As the rule is governed by the Legal Services Act 1990, changing it would mean a change of government legislation. We have considered the matter, but it is not a priority.”