What Is a Parliamentarian?
A parliamentarian is a consultant who advises the presiding officer and other officers, committees, and members on matters of parliamentary procedure. Parliamentarians are frequently used to assist with procedure during conventions and board meetings. Such advisors often turn long, difficult meetings into short, painless ones.
A professional parliamentarian can provide many additional useful services outside of an annual convention, including:
- Train officers and committee chairs
- Conduct parliamentary workshops for local presidents and members
- Supervise credentials and elections
- Preside over particularly contentious meetings
- Provide formal parliamentary opinions
- Create or revise bylaws
- Advise on parliamentary tactics and strategy
Unfortunately, finding a local skilled parliamentarian may be difficult. 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.
Organizations That Train and Certify Parliamentarians
The best means for finding a professional and objective parliamentarian is to contact the two non-profit organizations that examine and certify parliamentarians: the American Institute of Parliamentarians and the National Association of Parliamentarians. Each organization has various classifications of membership, ranging from beginner to the highest levels of parliamentary proficiency. In addition, each organization makes referrals of parliamentarians.
American Institute of Parliamentarians
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 (4th Edition), and Cannon's Concise Guide to Rules of Order. The American Institute of Parliamentarians can be contacted at 1100 E Woodfield Road, Suite 350, Schaumburg IL 60173; phone: (888) 664-0428, Web site: www.aipparl.org
National Association of Parliamentarians
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 213 S. Main Street, Independence, MO 64050-3850; phone: (888) NAP-2929; Web site: www.parliamentarians.org
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 four books on meeting procedure, including Robert's Rules of Order Fast Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fifth Edition. Jim is a partner in Law Firm Carolinas. For more information, visit www.jimslaughter.com.
Charts and articles are intended to provide general information on parliamentary procedure and are not legal advice or a legal opinion.