Montana Paralegal Career Guide
Our guide is designed to help you find the answers to the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in Montana. Here you will find Montana paralegal salary information, job outlook, career resources, and more to help you build a career in the paralegal field. Get started using the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents:
- Paralegal Careers
- Job Outlook in Montana
- Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Certification
- Career Quick Start Tips – How to Become a Paralegal in Montana
- Additional Paralegal Resources
Though government agencies, banks, and corporations rely on paralegal support, law firms continue to be the primary employers of legal assistants and paralegals nationwide. Large, full-service law firms tend to require the most paralegal support and are a good source of paralegal jobs in Montana for recently graduated candidates. Paralegals employed by these firms are often able to specialize in specific practice areas of law. Garlington, Lohn & Robinson, PLLP is an established Missoula law firm with a wide range of legal practice areas and a reputation for its positive work environment. Holland & Hart is another strong regional firm with offices across the Mountain West, including a location in Billings, that may have good opportunities for paralegals interested in specializing in finance or litigation.
Paralegals interested in working in corporate environments should look for Montana paralegal jobs in corporations such as Benefis Health System, The Washington Companies, and First Interstate BancSystem. Government agencies also require paralegal support and may provide a good introduction to the profession for entry-level paralegals.
Job Outlook in Montana
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Montana from 2016-20261
In May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 940 paralegals and legal assistants employed in Montana.2 As law firms work to reduce the cost of providing legal services, tasks previously delegated to attorneys may be absorbed into the paralegal role in order to make law practices more cost-effective. In addition, corporations are expected to expand the use of internal legal departments rather than seeking more costly outside counsel. These trends should drive the creation of new positions for paralegals and legal assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 15% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide from 2016 to 2026.3 Stronger growth is projected for paralegal jobs in Montana, with a predicted 17.9% job growth rate during the same period.1
Montana Paralegal Salary Outlook
The average paralegal salary in Montana was reported at $43,570 in 2017.3 Though this annual wage is lower than the national median paralegal wage of $53,910, this likely reflects the relatively low cost of living in Montana.2 Additionally, the average paralegal salary in Montana is higher in urban areas. Paralegals in Billings earn a reported average of $49,070, while paralegals in the Great Falls area earn a similar average of $53,670.4 Overall, the job and salary outlook for paralegals and legal assistants in Montana is positive.
Montana Paralegal Salary Info By Metro Area
An look at Montana paralegal salary by metro area:
|Metro Area||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.4
Paralegal Certification in Montana
Montana departs from current national norms and has formally issued Montana paralegal certification guidelines in the form of training and educational standards for paralegals practicing within the state. Within Montana, an individual may only assume the title of “paralegal” if they have met one or more of the following requirements:
- Earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited school
- Earned a bachelor’s degree in any subject plus 18 credit hours of paralegal studies coursework
- Received certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- Earned a high school diploma and accumulated at least 4,800 hours of substantive legal experience under the supervision of an attorney, plus at least 5 contact hours of approved continuing education in legal ethics
These standards for paralegals make it highly advisable for candidates to attend one of the paralegal schools in Montana prior to pursuing a legal support career.
As noted above, Montana paralegal certification standards follow strict guidelines. Though there are several ways to fulfill Montana paralegal certification requirements, prospective paralegals typically begin by enrolling in one of the Montana paralegal programs. Paralegal schools in Montana offer programs at the certificate and associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels. Currently, two Montana paralegal programs have been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). Other Montana paralegal schools are located throughout the state and may provide sufficient preparation for an entry-level paralegal career.
Career Quick Start Tips — How to Become a Paralegal in Montana
Upon completing a paralegal degree program, individuals are highly encouraged to seek national certification through the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). Both of these organizations offer certification examinations and continuing education programs designed to establish a uniform standard of professionalism for paralegals nationwide. Though not required by law, these certifications are well-respected by employers and thus are beneficial for job seekers. You can find out more about national certification on our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal. You can also view typical requirements for Montana paralegal jobs on our jobs board. For more information regarding paralegal education and employment in the state please refer to the Montana paralegal associations listed below.
Paralegals are central to the success of the firms for which they work. Knowing where to find the right resources when they are needed is a critical skill for career paralegals. These resources for Montana paralegals can help you become more competitive in your career.
Montana Paralegal Career Books
- The Paralegal Professional – The Paralegal Professional is written to provide a foundation in substantive and procedural law. The text focuses on the real-world skills, including ethics, that form the basis of successful paralegal careers. Individual attention is given to the most common areas of practice for paralegals.
- Evidence for Paralegals – Paralegals working in trial environments must have an understanding of evidence law. This text gives paralegals foundations in both theoretical and practical evidentiary principles at the state and federal levels.
- Basic Legal Writing for Paralegals – Legal writing is one of the most commonly used skills for legal support professionals. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the legal writing process with practical tips tied to real-world practice. The text also provides citation guides and pointers in legal ethics.
Paralegal Job Search Websites for Montana
- State Bar of Montana Career Center – The State Bar of Montana Career Center frequently posts Montana paralegal jobs in all areas of the state.
- Paralegal411 jobs board – For more paralegal jobs in Montana, be sure to visit our jobs board page.
Montana Court Info
- Courts.MT.gov – The Montana Judicial Branch maintains this site as a home portal for all courts within the state’s jurisdiction. From here visitors can access court forms, rules, and dockets as well as e-filing systems. Links to legal research tools are also provided.
Law Libraries in Montana
- State Law Library of Montana – The State Law Library of Montana is open to legal professionals and the general public. The collections focus on state law but also include numerous volumes in national and federal law, as well as select titles in international law. The library is located in Helena and offers document delivery services for distance users at a nominal fee.
- William J. Jameson Law Library at the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law – Located in Missoula, the William J. Jameson Law Library welcomes legal professionals and the general public. The library’s deepest holdings are in Montana law, though the library also has considerable holdings in national and international law and provides access to numerous electronic legal research databases.
Paralegal Associations in Montana
- Montana Association of Legal Assistants*Paralegals – The Montana Association of Legal Assistants*Paralegals was founded in 1992 and is an affiliate of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). The organization seeks to promote the paralegal profession through communication within the legal professions and support of paralegal education. Annual membership dues are $25.
1. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm#tab-5
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Montana: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mt.htm
5. American Bar Association: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/