Montana has about 4,000 lawyers, and its just about evenly spread between men and women. There are lawyers in general practice, personal injury, divorce, criminal law, estate planning, oil and gas licensing and those who work for private corporations too. Opportunity is knocking in Montana, so get it while the Big Sky Country is still wide open. If you want to become a lawyer in Montana, here’s what you need to do.
Get Your Undergraduate Degree
Although the State Bar of Montana doesn’t require you to have a certain type of degree, it does require you to have graduated from an accredited four-year college or university. If your college or university appears on the U.S. Board of Education’s database, you’re likely in good stead. Only schools that appear thereon are accredited by the American Bar Association. All ABA accredited law schools will recognize a bachelor’s degree from such an institution. You needn’t have a pre-law major either. Classwork in English, criminal justice, political science or psychology are all acceptable. Admissions committees for law schools want to see undergraduate students enjoy their major. If they enjoy it, then it’s likely that their grade point average will be up there too. Admissions committees like high grade point averages.
The Law School Admissions Test
Typically, it’s sometime after undergraduate studies that a person decides to go to law school. It’s the Law School Admission Test that stands on the road to the Montana bar though. You have to do as well on that exam as you possibly can. In addition to that, you’re competing nationally, and there’s going to be competition for a seat in a law school class 2,000 miles away. That’s why we recommend taking a preparation class for this endeavor. The LSAT has nothing to do with the practice of law at all, but it’s a good predictor of how you will do in law school. Take a class to prepare you for this. That could make the difference in a career in law or teaching 12-year-olds. Leave the teaching to somebody else, and concentrate on law school. The LSAT consists of the following:
- Reading Comprehension: You’ll read complex passages. Then, you’ll answer questions based on your comprehension of them. Your ability to make inferences and draw conclusions will be tested.
- Critical reasoning: Your ability to see strengths and weaknesses in an argument are tested.
- Logical reasoning: This section tests your ability to draw conclusions and see relationships.
- One of the above sections: One of the above sections will be repeated. You won’t be told which one. Nor will you be told if its graded.
- Writing: A copy of this sample will only go to the schools you apply to.
The Application Process
The process for applying to take the exam is simple. Pay $195 to the Law School Admission Council. The exam is given three times per year. You’ll receive your LSAT scores about three weeks after taking the exam. Montana only has one law school. That’s the University of Montana. A low on the LSAT is 120, and a high on it is 180. The average score at the University of Montana is 155. That’s when you can go ahead and apply there. You don’t need to go to the University of Montana either. There are more than 200 accredited law schools across the country that you can go to and sit for the Montana bar.
Credential Assembly Service
The ABA does require you to apply through the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). This service operates to streamline processing though. All transcripts, letters of recommendation and LSAT scores are requested from the CAS. They then forward them to the schools that you apply to. The fee for this service is another $195. CAS applies electronically for you and $45 per law school.
The Montana State Bar Exam
Montana administers the Uniform Bar Exam. Just about everything important that you learned in law school is touched upon. It’s by far the best idea to take a preparation class for this. Just talk with other third year law students and see which class they’re taking. Take that one too. You won’t regret it. You’ll take the Montana bar exam over two days. On the fist day, you have the Multistate Performance Test (MPT). Your performance skills are tested. You’re given a file and a library. You’ll need to write a memo or brief. In the afternoon session, you’ll have six essay questions, each on-half hour in duration. On the second day, you have the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) with 100 multiple choice questions in the morning, and another 100 in the afternoon. In addition to this, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam prior to admission with a passing score of 80 or above. All applicants must also attend the Montana Law Seminar (MLS) that is offered the Thursday after the bar exams.
In 2021, more than 94% of all Montana takers passed the bar. Don’t let that get your hopes up though. In 2019, it was 79%, and it 2014, it was 81% of first-time takers.
Results will be mailed to you in six to nine weeks. Notices will also be mailed out as to the time and place of the swearing in ceremony. After that it’s congratulations! You’re a lawyer now, and you can practice anywhere in the Montana trial or appellate courts.