How to Become a Lawyer in Montana: CLE Requirements and Education Requirements

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a lawyer in Montana? The allure of practicing law in Big Sky Country is undeniable. In this comprehensive guide on how to become a lawyer in Montana, we will walk you through the necessary steps to make your goal a reality. From obtaining a bachelor’s degree to taking the Montana Bar Exam, we’ve got you covered!

What you’re about to learn in this guide:

  • Becoming a lawyer in Montana requires obtaining a bachelor’s degree, attending an ABA-accredited law school and passing the LSAT.

  • The Alexander Blewett III School of Law is renowned for its academic excellence and offers joint degree programs to meet the needs of aspiring attorneys.

  • Admittance to the Bar also involves completing CLE requirements annually with job market opportunities available across various sectors.

Path to Becoming a Montana Attorney

Embarking on the journey to become a lawyer in Montana requires dedication, persistence, and a clear understanding of the milestones you need to achieve along the way. The journey to become a Montana attorney begins with securing a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution. This lays the foundation for your legal career, as law schools require a bachelor’s degree for admission.

Once you finish your undergraduate studies, the next step is to enroll in an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. This guarantees that you receive a legal education that meets a minimum set of standards, preparing you adequately for the practice of law.

The last prerequisite requires you to clear the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Achieving a passing score on the LSAT is a critical step in gaining admission to law school and, ultimately, practicing law in Montana.

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is needed to apply for law school. However, no specific pre-law major is required. Aspiring Montana attorneys are encouraged to complete coursework in various fields, such as:

  • law

  • criminal justice

  • political science

  • history

  • world cultures

  • economics

  • business

  • English

These diverse disciplines help you develop a well-rounded foundation for a successful legal career.

Regional or national accreditation listed with the U.S. Department of Education is necessary for your undergraduate institution to be recognized by ABA-accredited law schools. This recognition is crucial for earning Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits in the future, which you’ll need to maintain your license to practice law in Montana.

Attend an ABA-Accredited Law School

For those aspiring to become Montana attorneys, enrolling in an ABA-accredited law school is mandatory. Enrolling in such an institution ensures that you receive a legal education that adheres to a minimum set of standards. This guarantees that graduates are sufficiently prepared for the practice of law and are eligible to take the Montana Bar Exam. The LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools is a valuable resource for identifying ABA-accredited law schools in the US.

In addition to your coursework, gaining practical experience is essential during your time in law school. Internships allow you to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired in a real-world setting, further preparing you for a successful career in law.

Pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

The LSAT, a standardized exam, is a requirement for law school admission. It is designed to assess your analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension skills – all vital components of a successful legal career. The fee for the LSAT is $190, and achieving a passing score is essential for gaining admission to law school and pursuing a legal career in Montana.

LSAT scores range from a minimum of 120 to a maximum of 180. Given the weight law schools place on scores when assessing applicants, it’s important to prepare thoroughly for the exam. A strong score not only opens the door to attending an ABA-accredited law school but also sets you on the path to earning CLE credits and maintaining your license to practice law in Montana.

Montana Law School Options

Montana is home to the Alexander Blewett III School of Law, the sole law school in the state. This prestigious institution offers a top-tier legal education and a range of joint degree programs, making it an excellent choice for aspiring attorneys in Montana.

Alexander Blewett III School of Law

Located in Missoula, the Alexander Blewett III School of Law offers an innovative public service education that combines theory with practical experience. The law school is well-regarded for its academic excellence and commitment to providing a high-quality education for future Montana attorneys. The curriculum includes a range of programs, such as a Juris Doctor (JD), a Master of Laws (LLM), and a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) program.

In addition to its robust academic offerings, the Alexander Blewett III School of Law provides opportunities to acquire practical skills in areas such as contract drafting, corporate formation, and litigation. These invaluable experiences help prepare students for successful legal careers in Montana and beyond.

Preparing for and Taking the Montana Bar Exam

After finishing your legal education, you should gear up for the Montana Bar Exam. This crucial step in your journey towards becoming a licensed Montana attorney assesses your knowledge of various subject areas and your proficiency as a legal practitioner. The Montana Bar Exam is offered bi-annually in February and July.

To apply for the Montana Bar Exam, you must:

  1. Complete the NCBE Application for Montana online

  2. Print the Montana Application Cover Page

  3. Enclose all required documents from the Montana Application Checklist along with the application fee

  4. Send the completed application to the State Bar of Montana Board of Bar Examiners & Commission on Character & Fitness.

Uniform Bar Exam (UBE)

The Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), a standardized test, is necessary for admission to the Montana Bar. It consists of three components: the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE), the Multistate Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). To attain a UBE score in Montana, you must take all three components during a single exam cycle.

All UBE applicants must adhere to the application process outlined by the NCBE and comply with the Rules for Admission to the State Bar of Montana. Applicants who are transferring from UBE or seeking admission on motion must take special note of when to submit their application for the Montana Law Seminar. The application must be submitted not less than 30 days prior to attending.

Montana Law Seminar (MLS)

All applicants applying for admission to the Montana Bar must attend the Montana Law Seminar (MLS). This educational event covers various topics relevant to the practice of law in Montana and is an essential requirement for becoming a licensed attorney in the state.

Attending the MLS not only ensures that you meet the requirements for admission to the Montana Bar but also provides valuable insights into the practical aspects of practicing law in the state. Keep in mind that you may not be admitted to the Montana Bar until attendance at the Seminar has been confirmed.

Character and Fitness Investigation

The Montana Bar application process includes a mandatory character and fitness investigation. This assessment evaluates your character and fitness to practice law and is required for admission to the Montana Bar.

To complete this investigation, you will need to submit several documents, as outlined in the following subsection.

Required Documents

For the character and fitness investigation, you must submit the following documents:

  • Completed application form

  • Criminal background check

  • Credit report

  • Professional references form

  • Personal statement

Each document serves a specific purpose in the investigation process, providing the Montana Board of Bar Examiners with information about your background, qualifications, and character.

To access the necessary documents, you can visit the Montana Board of Bar Examiners website and follow their guidelines for obtaining the required materials. Make sure to submit these documents promptly and accurately to avoid any delays in the investigation process.

Admission to the State Bar of Montana

Upon completing the Montana Bar Exam and the character and fitness investigation, you’re set for admission to the State Bar of Montana. This final milestone includes a swearing-in ceremony and State Bar membership, granting you the privilege to practice law in Montana’s trial and appellate courts.

Upon receiving notification of your successful completion of the Montana Bar Exam, you’ll be informed of the time and place of the formal swearing-in ceremony. At this event, you’ll take an oral oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the attorney ethics oath, marking your official admission to the Montana Bar.

Swearing-In Ceremony

The swearing-in ceremony is a pivotal moment in your journey to becoming a Montana attorney. During this event, you’ll take an oral oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the attorney ethics oath in front of your peers, friends, and family.

This ceremony not only marks your official admission to the Montana Bar but also signifies the beginning of your legal career in the state. With this milestone achieved, you are now authorized to practice law in Montana’s trial and appellate courts.

State Bar Membership

Membership in the State Bar of Montana is a requirement for all practicing lawyers in the state. As a member, you’ll gain access to various resources and benefits that can help you excel in your career. These include networking opportunities, employment assistance, and practice management resources.

To maintain your State Bar membership, you must adhere to the organization’s rules and regulations, including completing mandatory continuing legal education programs. Staying in good standing with the State Bar ensures that you remain a competent and ethical legal practitioner in Montana.

Montana attorneys need to pursue Continuing Legal Education (CLE) to stay current with the latest legal developments. Montana attorneys are required to complete 15 CLE credit hours annually, with the option to carry over a maximum of 30 live credits.

New attorneys are exempt from CLE reporting requirements for the reporting period in which they are admitted to the bar. This allows new attorneys to focus on establishing their practice and adjusting to their new professional responsibilities.

Annual CLE Credit Requirements

Each year, Montana attorneys must complete a minimum of fifteen (15) credit hours of approved continuing legal education activity. This includes 2.0 ethics credits, ensuring that attorneys remain ethical and competent in their practice.

In addition to the annual 15 CLE credit hours, Montana attorneys can carry over up to 30 live credits, including a maximum of 4 ethics credits, from one reporting period to another. This flexibility allows attorneys to manage their CLE requirements more effectively and track their cle credits earned.

Reporting CLE Credits

Maintaining your legal competence and ethical standing as an attorney in Montana necessitates reporting CLE credits and meeting Montana CLE requirements. To report your CLE attendance, you must submit a completed CLE report form, along with proof of attendance, to the Montana State Bar. Upon review, the Montana State Bar will issue a certificate of compliance if you have satisfied the CLE requirements.

Failure to report CLE credits could lead to disciplinary action, including suspension or disbarment. Therefore, it is essential to stay diligent in fulfilling and reporting your CLE credits to maintain your license to practice law in Montana.

Job Market and Salary Expectations

The job market and salary expectations for lawyers in Montana can vary depending on factors such as the practice area and potential employer. Some potential employers for lawyers in Montana include:

  • Small and large law firms

  • Solo practitioner offices

  • Corporations

  • Government entities

  • Non-profit organizations

Job seekers can explore their options in a range of sectors.

Montana attorneys can specialize in various areas, such as:

  • Litigation

  • Criminal law

  • Family law

  • Administrative law/government agency matters

  • Estate planning

  • Probate

  • Trusts

With 57% of attorneys in Montana in private practice, opportunities for growth and advancement in the legal profession are abundant.


In conclusion, becoming a lawyer in Montana is a rewarding and fulfilling journey. By following the outlined steps – from obtaining a bachelor’s degree to passing the Montana Bar Exam – you’ll be well-prepared to embark on a successful legal career in Big Sky Country. Remember to stay diligent in your studies, gain practical experience, and fulfill your CLE requirements to maintain your license and continue your professional growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you need to be a lawyer in Montana?

To be a lawyer in Montana, you must be licensed by the State Bar of Montana and have a JD. You must also take the bar exam and other exams as required.

Does Montana have a law school?

Yes, Montana has a law school – the University of Montana School of Law. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and located in Missoula. It offers an excellent and affordable program for those looking to pursue their legal education.

What is the hardest state to become a lawyer?

California is widely considered to be the hardest state to become a lawyer due to its notoriously difficult bar exam, with only 34% passing rate.

What are the main steps to become a lawyer in Montana?

In order to become a lawyer in Montana, one must obtain a bachelor’s degree, attend an ABA-accredited law school, pass the LSAT, complete a character and fitness investigation, and finally pass the Montana Bar Exam.

What is the importance of attending an ABA-accredited law school?

Attending an ABA-accredited law school is important as it ensures a legal education of minimum standards, preparing you for the practice of law and eligibility to take the Montana Bar Exam.

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