According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 950 paralegals and legal assistants work in Montana.1 More people are taking advantage of courses offered in Montana paralegal schools as jobs in legal administration grow throughout the state. Employers in Montana, as well as in the rest of the US, are showing a preference for candidates who hold a paralegal degree, and schools in Montana offer a variety of options on campus and online.
How to Become a Paralegal in Montana
Montana has a unique legal market and is one of few states that sets specific education requirements in order to work as a paralegal. In order to perform the work or use the title of ‘paralegal,’ professionals must:
- Hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from a regionally accredited school; or
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in any subject plus 18 credit hours of paralegal studies courses; or
- Be certified through the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) or the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA); or
- Have a high school diploma plus a minimum of 4,800 clock hours of experience performing substantive legal tasks under the supervision of an attorney, plus 5 contact hours of approved legal ethics education
Given these requirements, most paralegals in Montana begin their careers by earning a paralegal degree. It is also worth noting that a growing number of employers are more inclined to hire candidates who have a degree from a program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Montana Paralegal Salary and Job Outlook
As of 2018, Montana paralegals earned an average of $44,330 per year.1 However, in the Great Falls and Billings areas, paralegals made over $50,000 on average.1 With a low unemployment rate of 3.7% and projected paralegal jobs growth of 17.7% through 2026, Montana can be an ideal place to start a career as a paralegal.2,3 About 120 average annual openings are expected for paralegals each year through 2026.2
Profiles of Well-Known Schools in Montana
University of Providence: The University of Providence (formerly University of Great Falls) offers a Bachelor of Science in Legal and Paralegal Studies as well as an Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies; both programs are approved by the American Bar Association. Students in both programs are required to complete and pass Introduction to Paralegalism, Introduction to Legal Analysis, and Legal Research and Writing. Paralegal majors also must pursue an internship with a designated law office or legal organization to gain experience in the paralegal profession. The Bachelor of Science takes 128 credit hours while the Associate of Science takes 64 credit hours to complete.
The University of Montana: The Department of Business Technology at the University of Montana has an American Bar Association-approved Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. This is a four-semester program that admits new students only in the fall and consists of 70 credit hours. Students enroll in Paralegal Studies courses and must also complete lower-level accounting, computer information systems, business, and psychology classes. Two dozen professors and instructors teach for the Department of Business Technology, contributing to the multidisciplinary curriculum of the paralegal studies program.
Top Law Firms for Paralegal Graduates in Montana
- Garlington, Lohn & Robinson PLLP has been rated by US News as one of the best law firms in Missoula. Many of its attorneys have also been listed in The Best Lawyers in America. GLR specializes in many practice areas for businesses and individuals, including Real Estate Law, Intellectual Property, Estate Planning, and Products Liability.
- Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry, & Hoven PC has four offices across Montana from Bozeman to Great Falls, primarily servicing businesses and allied trade associations. Its core competencies are in legislative and public affairs, but the firm has grown to provide all types of legal services to its clients. BKBH invites recent paralegal graduates to contact the firm regarding career opportunities.
- Moulton Bellingham PC traces its Montana roots back to the turn of the century. It is one of the most respected law firms in Montana, with a diverse client base. The firm welcomes inquiries from paralegals interested in starting a career at Moulton Bellingham, with competitive salaries and excellent benefits.
Paralegal Schools and Programs in Montana
An asterisk indicates that one or more of the school’s programs have been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
University of Montana (Montana)*
Associate of Applied Science | Paralegal Studies
Dual Degree Program | Environmental Studies and Law
Dual Degree Program | Business Administration and Law
Dual Degree Program | Public Administration and Law
Certificate | Natural Resources and Environmental Law
Certificate | American Indian Law
Certificate | Alternative Dispute Resolution
Certificate | Natural Resources Conflict Resolution
University of Providence (formerly University of Great Falls) (Great Falls)*
Associate of Science | Paralegal Studies
Associate of Science | Paralegal Studies (online)
Associate of Science | Air Force Paralegal
Associate of Science | Air Force Paralegal (online)
Associate of Science | Army Paralegal
Associate of Science | Army Paralegal (online)
Bachelor of Science | Legal and Paralegal Studies
Bachelor of Science | Legal and Paralegal Studies (online)
Pre-Professional Program | Pre-Law
*Approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)
- Montana Association of Legal Assistants/ Paralegals (MALA) – Formed in 1992, MALA exists to foster communication between and promote the growth of Montana legal assistants and paralegals and the greater legal community.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
2. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Unemployment Rates for States: https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
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