Philadelphia has its first 24-hour notary service and it’s spearheaded by a PAN member. After being laid off from her job as an assistant at a Philadelphia law firm, Judith Lawrence wanted to start over. She had made the acquaintance of the 84-year-old owner of Center City Notary and when he expressed his desire to retire, he suggested she buy the business.
“The business needed to be revamped, redecorated and computerized,” said Judith, who purchased Center City Notary in January 2015. “The office is in the heart of the downtown district, just half a block from City Hall. The business name and the location are longstanding and respected in Center City Philadelphia.”
Judith knew from day one it was where she belonged. She took the tired old business, modernized it and added an array of services. She also decided to make Center City Notary a 24-hour service provider.
“I instinctively believed that people would be receptive to after-work and weekend hours,” said Judith. “We often see people at the end of their shifts, couples who meet after work to get something notarized, someone who has to catch a flight, or people who just completed a document and need it for the next morning. Evenings after 7 p.m. and weekends we work by appointment. We belong to the Philadelphia Area Concierge Association, so when people throughout the city need notaries including evenings and weekends, we either go to their location or they come to us.”
In addition to providing general notary services and I-9 employee verifications, Judith is a certified notary signing agent, notarizing mortgage and refinance closings. She also specializes in apostilles and is a PennDOT full agent.
“An apostille is commonly used to refer to the authentication of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention. If the country of destination is not a member of the Hague Convention, embassy authentication must be obtained,” said Judith. “It’s very interesting. You have to research the destination country. Each country has its own requirements if the documents are to be authenticated.”
Judith said becoming a PennDOT full agent was the most difficult business to learn and is still a work in progress. PAN, she said, “has been a great resource.” She has now connected with an insurance agent who can facilitate motor vehicle insurance quotes and she has learned an online system to process paperwork.
“I am working hard to build up this part of my business.”
Center City Notary has nine independent notary contractors who are called out for assignments on an “as needed basis.” Judith is the company’s only full-time employee.
“I am still excited that the phones ring and people continue to come every day,” she said. “I never lose that amazing sense of pride in what I have created. Being your own boss is great – I get to work very long hours doing the actual work; I pay the bills, work as the office cleaning lady and the technical support person. But at the end of the day, I have a sense of accomplishment and pride that is unsurpassed.”
Judith is also writing a book with the message for other women who are facing tough times that it is never too late to change their lives.