More than 900 lawyers have been denied a chance to qualify as notaries public because of a legal vacuum in place since the handover. A qualifying examination and registration system under the colonial government was abolished after the 1997 handover and no new system has replaced it. Since then, 942 solicitors have passed the seven-year mark in practice, the required period of experience needed to sit an examination to become notaries public under the old system. The president of the Hong Kong Society of Notaries, Peter Mark Wei-hing, claimed the association did not have the time or manpower to set up an examination and registration system. Notaries public attest and certify the authenticity of legal documents for use overseas. There are 4,000 solicitors in Hong Kong and 10 per cent had qualified as notaries public under the colonial system. Law Society vice-president Ip Shing-hing said he was aware some solicitors had expressed interest in obtaining the qualification. But he said Hong Kong had enough notaries to handle attesting and certifying duties. 'Hong Kong is such a small area, so it is not difficult to look for a notary public. But it would be more convenient if a law firm also had the additional service for clients,' Mr Ip said.