How to Become a Paralegal in Montana

Map of Montana State in USA.

Paralegals work to support attorneys by performing a wide variety of legal administrative tasks. Just as lawyers focus on one area of law to practice, paralegals also choose a specialty, which may include bankruptcy, immigration, insurance or criminal law. Daily duties can fluctuate and might include investigating and gathering facts for a case, researching laws and regulations, maintaining and organizing documents, drafting correspondence, and helping during trials.

There are no state requirements for paralegal certification or licensure in Montana but most law firms require applicants to be certified on the national level and hold at least an associate’s degree, although the majority of paralegals have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Steps to Become a Paralegal

There are certain steps you’ll need to take to become a paralegal in Montana. Here’s a short list of what you’ll need to do:

STEP
1

Choose a specialty area.

Because there are so many different areas of law you should choose an area to focus on, just as attorneys do.

STEP
2

Earn your degree.

Although by theory you could become a paralegal without formal education the majority of paralegals hold a bachelor’s degree.

STEP
3

Pass the national certification process.

Law firms often use this as their hiring criteria even though state law does not require it.

STEP
4

Work an internship.

Often this is part of your degree work and may be a capstone requirement to graduate.  If it’s not, look for a position in a legal aid office or law firm so you have some idea what it’s like to work in the field.

STEP
5

Apply for entry level jobs.

Once you get your degree you’ll probably start work at a low level to gain experience before moving on to your preferred position.

Paralegal Education Requirements in Minnesota

Although the state doesn’t require a degree for employment, most law firms do. Almost half of paralegals hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 18 percent with an associate’s degree. While you might take the same coursework focusing on law and administration in both degree programs, some employers like the liberal arts advantage that a bachelor’s degree offers, and prefer candidates who know about history and English. Earning a bachelor’s will give you that edge when you’re ready to apply for jobs.

Paralegal Licensure

Most attorneys hire paralegals that have passed the exam given by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA). Becoming certified shows you have the knowledge, education and skills required to perform a wide variety of paralegal duties. Certification also carries a certain prestige among peers. You can pay the fee and pass an exam to earn a basic paralegal credential or if you have worked in the

Paralegal Salary and Job Growth

Paralegals in Montana earn less than the national average but the job growth projection is robust.

job-growth-montana

In fact, Montana expects the field to grow 21 percent by the year 2029, and compared to the national projection of 15 percent job growth for paralegals, you can see that outlook is very positive. Here are the annual median salaries of Montana paralegals; keep in mind those earning the most are typically those with more experience and higher education. Location may also play a factor:

Lowest 10 percent:

$28,620


Median 10 percent:

$42,460


Highest 10 percent:

$64,050

Career Opportunities in Montana

The majority of paralegals in Montana work in the cities of Billings, Missoula, and Great Falls. As in the rest of the country, most are employed by law firms; other paralegals find employment in financial institutions, insurance agencies or public and private corporations. Some of the corporations based in Montana who may employ paralegals are Interstate BancSystem, Stillwater Mining Company and Big Sky Brewing Company.

Final Steps

Once you earn your degree and become a certified paralegal, your employer may recommend you take certain classes focusing on the specialty of the law in which your firm practices. Montana also has a professional organization you should join. The Montana Association of Legal Assistants Paralegals is affiliated with the National Association of Legal Assistants and supports the profession. It also offers information on continuing education, events and networking with others on your chosen profession.

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