When an academic meets an entrepreneur: Ann Lee and Paul Choi’s successful Notary partnership
by Kristin Ignacz
“Ann is the brains of the operation,” laughs Paul Choi as he describes his business partner, Ann Lee.
Choi and Lee are Notary Publics, arbitrators, and managing partners at Juris Notary LLP. Their impressive operation employs nine staff and serves the Lower Mainland with offices in Burnaby and Abbotsford. They have been fortunate to form a complementary business partnership in which they play off each other’s strengths.
Choi is the true entrepreneur of the well-suited duo. He opened the Notary practice in 2016 after graduating from the Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies (MA ALS) program at Simon Fraser University, the prerequisite program to becoming a Notary in British Columbia. Choi demonstrated his determination by maintaining full-time work as a police officer while attending the program. Even though the two-year MA ALS program is offered in a hybrid model and is intended for working professionals, Choi’s shiftwork schedule resulted in some interesting time management manoeuvres.
“Some days I would literally be taking a lunch break and pulling my police car over to the side of the road to attend lectures on my laptop,” recalls Choi. “I made it work, and I’m glad I did. It was definitely worth it.”
Choi’s entrepreneurial spirit and strong business skills are balanced by Lee’s academic inclination, gentle nature, and innate ability to connect with clients. Since graduating from the MA ALS program in 2018 and joining the practice shortly thereafter, Lee has proved that her determination is equally matched with Choi’s. Driven by a desire for knowledge and a passion for continual growth, Lee recently completed her Bachelor of Law Degree: a degree earned while working full-time as a Notary.
This continual cycle of learning and improvement is evident in Lee and Choi’s Notary practice. They offer a diverse range of services and expand their practice to each client’s unique needs.
“Ultimately, we do everything,” says Lee. “If our clients are asking for some services, we tend to listen to them and offer as much as we can.”
“We always have a curious mind to want to know how things work,” adds Choi.
This growth mindset and continual drive for improvement have resulted in a one-stop shop for all services a Notary can provide including wills and estates, powers of attorney, authentications, contracts, business asset transactions, liens, easements, Indigenous land transactions, residential and commercial real estate, co-ops, and more.
Lee says that one of her favorite opportunities as a Notary is providing services to local Indigenous communities. In addition to handling Indigenous land and title rights, Lee and Choi had the opportunity to draft wills for an entire Indigenous nation. Lee says she enjoys immersing herself in the unique culture and perspectives of these communities.
Overall, the personal connection with clients is what Lee enjoys most about being a Notary. “I like to be able to communicate with the clients and to be able to meet with them personally,” says Lee. “I like being in a position to help them out, and to listen to them and be able to connect with them.”
Choi echoes this sentiment. “Listening to their story and their journey and hearing what they are going through is really the best part of it,” says Choi.
When Lee and Choi are not assisting clients, they dedicate their time to sharing knowledge with their community. The duo provides legal columns for a local Korean newspaper (Choi and Lee both speak fluent Korean), they volunteer their time giving educational presentations to assist newcomers to Canada, and they have created a blog that educates the public on the services a Notary can provide. Their dedication to their clients and community has resulted in several accolades including Choi’s recent receipt of the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year Award.
Looking back, Lee and Choi both fondly recall their journeys to become Notaries and have no regrets. For anyone considering a career as a Notary, Choi suggests talking to a practicing Notary and researching the MA ALS program to gain a deep understanding of the curriculum and commitments.
“It is a wonderful program that they are constantly improving,” says Choi. “I would recommend anyone who is interested in law, real estate, or contract areas, it is a great option for them.”