This is a good example of the difference between what a Notary and a Solicitor each does. Usually a solicitor’s certified copy of, say, a passport or a degree certificate is merely a statement that the individual solicitor has physically seen the original of what they’re certifying, made a copy of that and signed accordingly.
A notary’s certificate however gives a further confirmation that the document is actually genuine. For example, that the degree certificate in our example was really issued to the person whose name appears on it. A notary’s certificate therefore usually carries more weight and may be relied upon more extensively.
Whilst notaries can’t be expected to be experts in forgery, they do have to be aware of obvious fakes and WILL be expected to make checks to verify the document in question. So, in the case of our example, that might involve checking with the University that the client did definitely attend their institution and really was awarded the qualification. That may take a little time especially if the University for example wants the client’s written consent, to satisfy what they (often wrongly) assume to be Data Protection Issues.
Other documents that often require certification by clients as true copies are test certificates issued by government standards agencies and birth and marriage certificates. I may write more about this topic later but for now please please remember that due to Crown Copyright on birth and marriage Certificates it is not possible for a notary to certify a photocopy of these documents. These certificates are in any event already certified copies in their own right and usually don’t need further notarisation. If that really is necessary and an Apostille is needed then you’ll either need to use your existing “original” document or get another one from the General Register Office http://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/
Finally for now, whether or not you actually need a notarised certified copy should be checked with the people abroad who’ve told you to get one. Some countries are perfectly happy with a solicitor’s copy and that will not usually cost more than £5 per document. Depending up on the work involved in verifying it, a notary’s certified copy of a degree certificate for example usually costs over a hundred pounds (plus the Apostille cost).