Entrepreneurial spirits interested in the law and passionate about service to others

August 23, 2021

By Adriana González Braniff

Interested in legal studies? Committed to law and service? Thinking about pursuing a career as a British Columbia Notary Public? Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology has the perfect graduate program for you. 

The Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies program stands out from others as it is unique as a pre-requisite for admission to the BC Society of Notaries Public. For students interested in a career as a Notary in BC, this is the path to follow.

The program is offered over four terms, and even though it is primarily intended for persons interested in a legal career practising as a Notary Public, admission to the program is not restricted to this. The subjects taught throughout the program interest students working towards careers in many different areas! Some of the offered courses include Canadian Legal System (ALS 601), Real Property I (ALS 611), Contracts (ALS 610), Legal Research (ALS 602), and Personal Planning (ALS 615), all delivered primarily online.

Because Notaries generally practice as sole practitioners or in small practices, experience or interest in running your own business creates an advantage. Practising as a Notary Public entails providing legal services and running the business of a Notary practice. Students without prior business experience are encouraged to explore one or more of the Business Management courses offered through SFU Continuing Studies, prior to, during, or after the MA ALS program.    

What do Notaries focus their work on? BC Notaries are authorized to practice law in a limited number of non-contentious areas, meaning they do not appear in court and are not involved in litigation. Areas of practice include wills preparation, residential and commercial real estate transfers, powers of attorney and representation agreements, contracts and agreements, easements and rights of way, among many more. 

Notaries play an important role in providing access to legal services and justice across the province, and for this reason, the program is especially interested in receiving applications from qualified applicants planning to practice outside of the Lower Mainland.

Besides exploring the SFU Criminology MA ALS page, interested students may wish to take a look at the Spring 2021 volume of the Scrivener magazine (published by the BC Notaries Association), containing a special focus on the MA ALS program with comprehensive information about its history, courses, and instructors.


Read the interview below to learn more about Margaret Hall and the MA in Applied Legal Studies program at SFU’s School of Criminology:

About Margaret Hall:

Margaret Hall is a professor in Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology, the Society of Notaries Public of BC Chair in Applied Legal Studies, and the Director of the MA in Applied Legal Studies Program. Prior to coming to SFU in the Fall of 2019, Hall was an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University and, prior to that, an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law. Hall has also worked in law reform and has an active research agenda. Her current research involves Medical Assistance in Dying, mental capacity, law and dementia, vulnerability theory, and tort law.

What are the admission requirements and the typical background of an admitted student?

Margaret Hall: Eligibility requirements for admission to the program can be found here. Students admitted will often have experience in business, however, this is not essential. Some of our students have “notary adjacent” backgrounds in areas such as real estate, insurance, surveying, or paralegal practice; and some others a diverse array of backgrounds, such as one of our recent and very successful graduates, who worked as a teacher prior to joining the MA ALS program. All admitted students share an interest in and commitment to the law, and to providing service to the people in their community.

Potential applicants should be aware that the BC Society of Notaries Public has additional requirements for admission to the Society. Students interested in taking the program with the goal of becoming a Notary Public are advised to contact the Society regarding those requirements.


What courses from the program stand out as your favorite to teach? Why?

Margaret Hall: That’s a great question! The two courses I currently teach in the program are very different from one another and it is hard for me to pick a favourite as I enjoy both. The first one, Personal Planning (ALS 615), focuses on an area of the law that is complex and fascinating, frequently changing, and it goes straight to the very stuff of life: love, death, human frailty, family, money. Good practice in this area requires the practitioner to bring their whole self while being simultaneously expert and approachable. The client must be comfortable telling you their story and have confidence in your knowledge, skill, and advice. The other course I teach is Legal Philosophy (ALS 603), through which I learn something new about the nature of law and its relationship to society every time. 


What makes this program stand out from others?

Margaret Hall: This program is unique as a pre-requisite for admission to the Society of Notaries Public. For students interested in a career as a Notary in BC, this is the program for you.      


What are some of the career paths one can take upon graduation from the program?

Margaret Hall: As noted above, the MA ALS program is primarily intended for those intending to eventually practice as a Notary Public in BC, and it is the necessary first step on that career path.


If you would like more information about the MA in Applied Legal Studies program, please contact Dr. Margaret Hall at: