Montana’s strong economy, led by the healthcare and manufacturing industries, has allowed the legal services industry, and the paralegal profession as an extension, to continue to grow, thereby producing exciting opportunities for the paralegals who call Big Sky Country home.
Whether you’re interested in specializing in corporate law, criminal law, bankruptcy law, immigration law, or more, you’ll find plenty of reasons to get excited about a paralegal career in Montana. But first you’ll need to learn how to become a paralegal in Montana, which includes achieving the right education and credentials that will make you a valued addition to the state’s paralegal field.
Montana law as stated in HB 301 requires that paralegals meet certain training or educational standards before they can call themselves “paralegals.” Associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, national certification, law degrees and extensive work experience may all qualify someone to legally call themselves a paralegal. Under HB 301, paralegals may not work unless they are under an attorney’s supervision, although they are permitted to perform substantive legal work that would otherwise be done by an attorney.
Because of Montana’s state requirements, many aspiring paralegals choose to pursue education as a means of entering the profession. The law does not recognize non-baccalaureate certificate programs, so aspiring paralegals may choose from associate degrees or bachelor degrees in paralegal studies, master’s degrees in paralegal studies, post-baccalaureate paralegal certificates, or law degrees.
Post-baccalaureate certificate programs are not the same as national certification, though the two are frequently confused. In order to enter a post-baccalaureate certificate program, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree in any subject. The certificate program offers specialized coursework in paralegal studies designed to complement a general undergraduate education. A graduate from such a program is a certificated paralegal.
|Montana Job Statistics|
The state of Montana allows paralegals who earn national certification to legally call themselves “paralegals.” National certification is open to paralegals that meet educational or work experience requirements and also pass a national certification exam. Once they successfully complete the exam, they are called certified paralegals. Currently the three professional organizations offer four national exams from which to select:
- The PACE offered by the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The PCC also offered by National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- The CLA/CP offered by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- The PP offered by the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS)
Requirements for the national exams differ between the three national paralegal organizations. A comparison can be found here.
The Montana Association of Legal Assistants Paralegals (MALA) was formed in 1992 as an affiliate of NALA. Since its inception, MALA has worked to expand the role of the professional paralegal in Montana by educating both the legal community and the general public. MALA also provides educational and professional development opportunities to its members and sets high standards for ethical and professional behavior.
Membership in MALA allows paralegals to network, exchange ideas and information and access resources such as a job bank, continuing legal education, assistance with specialization or in preparing to take national certification exams, and a mentoring program. Membership is open to students, legal assistants, paralegals, educators and anyone else interested in supporting the paralegal profession.
MALA offers one membership level that is open to all of the following:
- Students and graduates of paralegal programs
- Paralegal educators
- Those formerly employed as paralegals
Important Contacts for Paralegals
- Montana Association of Legal Assistants*Paralegals (MALA), affiliated with NALA
- State Bar of Montana
- Montana Legislature – Definition of a Paralegal
- Montana Secretary of State
- Montana Courts
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary, growth, and job market trends for paralegals and legal assistants. Figures represent state data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2021.