This profession is not a free liberal legal profession, but is considered to be exercising a public function. It is regulated by the public administration. In Portugal, notaries are public/civil servants with an appointment for life. Notaries are, according to the professional hierarchy, subordinated to the Minister of Justice, through the General-Director of the Registry/Records and of the Public Notary.

The notarial code of 1967 regulates the competence of notaries in Article 5, lists the following activities: