Association leaders cannot afford to ignore parliamentary procedure basics during meetings. Courts have held that all organizations, including business, professional, educational, and governmental, are subject to principles and rules of common parliamentary law. All profit and nonprofit corporations and associations must observe its rules. As a result, ignoring or incorrectly applying parliamentary procedure can lead to embarrassment and lawsuits.
Associations frequently retain parliamentarians to advise on procedure during conventions and board meetings. Such procedural advisors can turn long, difficult meetings into short, painless ones. However, most associations only utilize parliamentarians to ensure that meetings are conducted properly and efficiently. A professional parliamentarian can provide many additional useful services outside of an annual convention, including:
Unfortunately, finding a skilled parliamentarian can be difficult. Yellow pages and city directories seldom have a listing for “Parliamentarians.” Sometimes local attorneys are asked to assist with meetings. Because few lawyers are trained in parliamentary law, however, the officers of the organization may know more about procedure than the advising attorney. Past officers are sometimes called on to serve as parliamentarian. Unfortunately, serving as an officer gives no assurance that the individual became proficient at procedure, and some members may view the officer as being associated with a particular view within the organization.
WHERE TO LOOK
The American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) has two levels of parliamentary proficiency—the basic Certified Parliamentarian and AIP’s highest parliamentary classification, Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP). A CPP designation denotes that the parliamentarian has extensive experience in parliamentary education and service, has passed a closed-book written examination, and has passed an oral examination before a panel of national parliamentarians. The two examinations are based on numerous parliamentary authorities (different types of organizations use different books), including Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, The Standard Code of Procedure, and Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure. The American Institute of Parliamentarians can be contacted at www.aipparl.org.
The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) also has two levels of parliamentary proficiency--Registered Parliamentarian and NAP's highest parliamentary classification, Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP). The PRP designation denotes that the parliamentarian has passed a written examination based on Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised and completed a course of lectures and hands-on training in the skills necessary for a professional parliamentarian. The National Association of Parliamentarians can be contacted at www.parliamentarians.org.
WHAT KIND OF PARLIAMENTARIAN DO YOU NEED?
Both the American Institute of Parliamentarians and the National Association of Parliamentarians have thousands of members. However, the number of members acknowledged as highly proficient in parliamentary procedure is much smaller. There are several hundred parliamentarians with either a CPP or PRP designation. Fewer than forty parliamentarians in the country have both the CPP and PRP designation.
A GOOD INVESTMENT
Jim Slaughter is an attorney, Certified Professional Parliamentarian, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, and past President of the American College of Parliamentary Lawyers. He is author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track and lead author of Notes and Comments on Robert's Rules, Fourth Edition.
Updated from "Finding the Right Parliamentarian," Meetings & Expositions, 1998
Charts and articles are intended to provide general information on parliamentary procedure and are not legal advice or a legal opinion.