By: Elina B. Gilbert, Esq.

Who is Robert and why do we care about him anyway? His full name was Henry Robert and he was an engineering officer with the U.S. Army. In 1863, Robert discovered the hard way (use your imagination here) that trusting a large assembly to behave and properly conduct itself during a meeting was just plain wrong.

After learning this lesson, Robert became set on creating written procedures that could be used by large assemblies to conduct business in a productive manner. After years of research he came up with Robert’s Rules of Order, which has become the “bible” of parliamentary procedure.

The entire purpose of Robert’s Rules is to enable assemblies to reach resolution on matters in a minimal amount of time. The best part about utilizing Robert’s Rules is their effectiveness regardless of the politics involved. In other words, Robert’s Rules work just as well in a harmonious meeting as they do in a contentious one, which has greatly contributed to the popularity of Robert’s Rules.

However, Robert’s Rules are complex and tedious containing over 600 pages of small print instructions and procedures, making it almost impossible to follow 100% unless you’re a trained parliamentarian. Thus, it is no surprise that Robert’s Rules can easily become a hindrance in smaller meetings that do not require the level of control that larger meetings do. We see this hindrance time and time again during board meetings where directors get so bogged down with the process that they never get around to conducting the business at hand.

Most people don’t realize that Robert actually recognized this difficulty and specifically created a simplified process for meetings with less than 12 participants. Rules governing small meetings differ from the formal and more complex Robert’s Rules, in part, as follows:

  • President can make motions and vote
  • President can speak on any matter before the board
  • Motions do not require seconds
  • Informal discussion may be held without making a motion
  • If a proposed action is clear, a vote may occur without making a motion
  • After general discussion, an action may be taken if all board members agree on the proposed action and without taking a vote

However, be very careful to ensure you still comply with any requirements that may be set forth in your governing documents, including your conduct of meetings policy, when it comes to running your meetings. It is also important to note that unless your governing documents specifically require the use of Robert’s Rules, there is no statutory requirement for associations to utilize Robert’s Rules during any of their meetings (whether board or membership meetings).

If you have questions about Robert’s Rules of Order, please contact any of our attorneys at 303.432.9999.