2009 Montana Legislature
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HOUSE BILL NO. 301
INTRODUCED BY KOTTEL
AN ACT INCLUDING REASONABLE PARALEGAL FEES AS A COMPONENT OF ATTORNEY FEES THAT MAY BE AWARDED TO A PREVAILING PARTY IN CERTAIN CASES; DEFINING "PARALEGAL"; AMENDING SECTIONS 25-10-302 AND 37-61-215, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN APPLICABILITY DATE.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Paralegal fees as component of attorney fees. In any case or proceeding in which attorney fees are awarded to the prevailing party, the court may, as a component of the attorney fees, include reasonable fees of a paralegal, as defined in [section 2].
Section 2. Paralegal defined -- use of title. (1) As used in [section 1] and this section, "paralegal" means a person qualified through education, training, or work experience who is employed or retained to perform, under supervision by a licensed attorney, substantive legal work that:
(a) requires a substantial knowledge of legal concepts; and
(b) in the absence of the paralegal, would be performed by an attorney.
(2) An individual may use the title "paralegal" if the individual:
(a) has received an associate's degree in paralegal studies from an accredited institution or a baccalaureate degree in paralegal studies from an accredited college or university;
(b) has received a baccalaureate degree in any discipline from an accredited college or university and has completed not less than 18 semester credits of course work offered by a qualified paralegal studies program;
(c) has received certification by the national association of legal assistants or the national federation of paralegal associations;
(d) has received a high school diploma or its equivalent, has performed not less than 4,800 hours of substantive legal work under the supervision of a licensed attorney documented by the certification of the attorney or attorneys under whom the work was done, and has completed at least 5 hours of approved continuing legal education in the area of legal ethics and professional responsibility; or
(e) has graduated from an accredited law school and has not been disbarred or suspended from the practice of law by any jurisdiction.
(3) A person may not practice as a paralegal except under the supervision of a licensed attorney and is prohibited from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
Section 3. Section 25-10-302, MCA, is amended to read:
"25-10-302. Inclusion of attorney's fees in bill of costs. The attorney fees mentioned in 25-10-303, 30-9A-607, 71-1-233, and 71-3-124 and paralegal fees as a component of attorney fees as provided in [section 1] need not be included in the cost bill if they are made a part of the judgment."
Section 4. Section 37-61-215, MCA, is amended to read:
"37-61-215. Allowance of attorneys' attorney fees to unlicensed persons forbidden -- authorized paralegal fees. (1) It shall be is unlawful for any court within this state to allow attorneys' attorney fees in any action or proceeding before said the court in which attorneys' attorney fees are allowed by law to either party to such an action or proceeding when such the party is represented by anyone other than a duly admitted or licensed attorney at law.
(2) This section does not prevent the award of paralegal fees as a component of attorney fees as provided in [section 1]."
Section 5. Codification instruction. [Sections 1 and 2] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 25, chapter 10, part 3, and the provisions of Title 25, chapter 10, apply to [sections 1 and 2].
Section 6. Saving clause. [This act] does not affect rights and duties that matured, penalties that were incurred, or proceedings that were begun before [the effective date of this act].
Section 7. Severability. If a part of [this act] is invalid, all valid parts that are severable from the invalid part remain in effect. If a part of [this act] is invalid in one or more of its applications, the part remains in effect in all valid applications that are severable from the invalid applications.
Section 8. Applicability. [This act] applies to actions and proceedings filed on or after [the effective date of this act].
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Version of HB 301 (HB0301.ENR)
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