Montana Paralegal Career and Salary Guide
Our guide is designed to help you find the answers to the most common questions about how to become a paralegal in Montana. Unlike most states, the state of Montana has established minimum requirements for paralegals, which include a variety of possible education and experience combinations to qualify. On this page, you will find information on how to become a Montana paralegal, certification options, salary information, job outlook, and career resources to help you build a career in the paralegal field. Get started using the easy-to-navigate directory below.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Paralegal in Montana
- Paralegal Certification
- Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
- Paralegal Resources
How to Become a Paralegal in Montana
Montana is one of the few states that regulates the paralegal profession, requiring paralegals to meet certain educational, experiential, or certification requirements, including continuing education hours in some cases. To be eligible to become a paralegal in Montana, candidates must have earned one of the following:
- An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited school
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject with at least 18 credit hours of paralegal studies coursework
- Paralegal certification by a national association or federation of paralegals
- A high school diploma, accumulated at least 4,800 hours of substantive legal experience under the supervision of an attorney, and completed at least five contact hours of approved continuing education in legal ethics
- A law degree from an accredited law school
The process to become a Montana paralegal is as follows:
1. Earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies.
One of the most straightforward ways to qualify as a paralegal in Montana is to attend one of the paralegal schools in Montana prior to pursuing a legal support career. Receiving a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from an accredited college or university automatically qualifies candidates as paralegals in the state. Currently, there are two approved American Bar Association (ABA) programs in Montana.1
2. Gain experience.
Experience is another critical factor for becoming a paralegal. Internships, job shadowing, and on-the-job training are often included as part of paralegal education programs. Not all programs will require experience for degree credit, but taking advantage of real-world experience opportunities is recommended to make paralegal candidates more competitive in the job field. It is also possible to become a paralegal in Montana with a high school diploma if you have at least 4,800 hours of supervised, substantive legal experience as well as at least five contact hours of approved continuing education in legal ethics.
3. Seek certification, if desired.
Even though certification is not required to work as a legal assistant in Montana, receiving certification from a national organization of paralegals is one of the primary ways to qualify as a paralegal. Earning national paralegal certification requires that candidates meet certain educational and experiential standards, and paralegals with this designation are often favored by potential employers. Read more about Montana certification below.
Paralegal Certification in Montana
Paralegals are encouraged to seek national voluntary certification in order to enhance their credentials, improving their chances of getting hired and/or moving up in their careers. Montana has defined a paralegal as someone who performs substantive legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney and meets one or more of the education, training, or work experience qualifications defined by the state. National organizations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA, the Paralegal Association); the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA); and the American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI) offer voluntary certifications that demonstrate to potential employers that paralegals have met a professional standard of excellence. For more information on national certification options, take a look at our guide Steps to Become a Paralegal.
Montana Paralegal Career and Salary Outlook
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 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 regional firm with offices across the country, 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. LinkedIn is a good research resource where you can search on geography (Montana or city-level) for “paralegal” to find networking opportunities and also companies most associated with users identifying as paralegals; companies in Montana with the most LinkedIn users as paralegals include:
- Crowley Fleck Attorneys PLLP
- Datsopoulos Macdonald Lind PC
- Montana Legal Services Association
- Montana State University – Bozeman
- Patten, Peterman, Bekkedahl & Green, PLLC
- State of Montana
- University of Montana
For more information about paralegal careers, take a look at our careers page.
Montana Paralegal Salary Information
Projected Job Growth
Paralegals in Montana from 2018-20282
In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 920 paralegals and legal assistants employed in Montana.3 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. Projections Central reports a 12% employment growth for paralegals and legal assistants nationwide, with stronger growth projected for paralegal jobs in Montana (17.7%), from 2018 to 2028.2
The average paralegal salary in Montana was reported at $47,600 in 2020.3 Though this annual wage is lower than the national median paralegal wage of $56,610, this likely reflects the relatively low cost of living in Montana.3 Additionally, the average paralegal salary in Montana is higher in urban areas; paralegals in Billings earned a reported average of $53,120.3 Overall, the job and salary outlook for paralegals and legal assistants in Montana is positive. Paralegals who pursue paralegal education, are certified, and have real-world experience may be better positioned for higher salaries. Estimates are based on national data, not school-specific information; data accessed in December 2021.
Montana Paralegal Salary by Metro Area
|Average Annual Salary4
Paralegal Associations in Montana
These are volunteer organizations, typically with elected boards, that focus on professional development and networking for a specific geographical location and/or area of law.
- Montana Association of Legal Assistants (MALA): Promotes the paralegal profession throughout the state, supporting paralegal education through members-only events, a public job bank, and leadership opportunities.
- State Bar of Montana: Aids the courts in maintaining and improving the legal profession within the state through a strict code of ethics.
- Montana Judicial Branch: Provides links to all courts within the state’s jurisdiction with access to court forms, rules, dockets, and e-filing systems.
- Paralegal411 Jobs Board: To search for paralegal jobs in Montana, be sure to visit our jobs board.
- State Law Library of Montana: Provides the general public and legal professionals access to a robust collection of legal resources focusing on state law, as well as select titles in national and international law.
- University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law William J. Jameson Law Library: Offers access to an extensive print and electronic collection of Montana law resources, as well as national and international law.
1. American Bar Association Directory of ABA Approved Paralegal Education Programs: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/paralegals/paralegal-resource-directory/
2. Projections Central Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wages, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes232011.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm