South Carolina Bar 2017-2018 Leadership Handbook

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for your commitment as an active participant in the South Carolina Bar! Just as the effectiveness of your Bar depends largely on the committee and section structure, the success of your group depends largely on your leadership!

You, as a chair, have been chosen by the President or elected by your peers because you have shown special capabilities of administration and a high degree of expertise in the area of law to which your group is devoting study. It is, therefore, obvious that you have a large responsibility as a leader and as an administrator in motivating the members of your group toward common goals.

The chair has the responsibility to see that the committee or section performs the functions prescribed or authorized by the Board of Governors. The chair’s authority and that of the committee or section have been vested by the Board of Governors through the President. Bar committees and sections should make every effort to propose and promote policies of the Bar and take no action contrary to policies.

If you find yourself temporarily in a situation where your practice limits the attention you can give to the work of your committee or section, ask the staff or another member of the group to help you with your duties. Failure to recognize when help is needed will impeded the work of your committee or section and the Bar.

Making a positive start will go a long way toward ensuring a productive year for your group. This booklet should answer many questions and help to resolve problems that are bound to emerge during your tenure as chair.

Read this booklet carefully, and refer to it whenever necessary. Of course, any time you have a question or a problem that is not covered here, please call on your staff liaison for assistance. 


MEMBERSHIP & FUNCTION

Committees and sections are formed to meet specific needs and interests of the Bar. Task Forces are formed as need to address specific areas of interest, typically on a temporary basis.

Members of a committee are selected on the basis of their interests and abilities. An announcement is distributed annually to invite interested members to volunteer for committee service. Limited committee assignments must be made by the President to ensure workable group sizes and productivity.

Membership in Bar sections is open throughout the year. New members are accepted as soon as interest is indicated and payment of section dues received.

Special task forces may also be created by the Board of Governors from time to time to address specific, short-term issues. Task force members are appointed by the Board.

Committee chairs are also asked for their recommendations from the current membership. Drawing from these sources is helpful to the President when making final appointments. Suggestion for chair appointments also come from the staff, based on annual participation and contributions, and the Board of Governors.

The Bar encourages the active participation of women and minorities in bar activities. We value your suggestions for women and minorities who might wish to be included on any bar committees, councils or boards.

Goals

Immediately upon election, or after appointment by the President of the Bar, take time to think about goals and objectives for the upcoming year and how you plan to accomplish those goals. (This should be based on the President’s direction and your vision.) Provide the President with a copy of your plans and goals (copies to staff liaisons), asking for input. The deadline to submit goals is the last week of August.

Committee and section goals should reflect the goals of the Bar. Objectives should be translated into a specific plan of action with specific assignments. Divide large groups into subcommittees. Ensure that subcommittees have definite goals and deadlines, and report regularly for the consideration and action of the full body. The Bar’s House of Delegates relies heavily on sections and committees to raise issues for consideration and to further principles of ethics and professional responsibility.

Committee Rosters

Chairs seeking rosters of current members may contact the assigned staff liaison. An electronic roster will usually be available within a day after a request is received. The roster provided is for your administrative use only and is not to be used to produce mailing labels. All mailing to committees and sections should be coordinated through your liaison to avoid any improper use of membership records.

Getting Started

First and foremost:

  • Review the scope and purpose of your committee and section
    • Section Policy can be found here.
    • Committee Policy can be found here.
  • Hold an organizational meeting as soon as possible after July 1
  • Schedule meeting dates for the year by coordinating with the staff liaison
  • Make certain all members have a clear understanding of the group’s purpose, structure, boundaries and resources
  • Appoint a member to keep minutes in the absence of Bar staff. We suggest a vice-chair or secretary.
  • Determine any projects your group would like to complete
  • Consider periodic speakers to talk on substantive topics of interest to your membership. 

CHAIR RESPONSIBILITIES

The specific functions and responsibilities of the chair include the following.
  • Assists in developing objectives and ensures that these objectives are met.
  • Plans the methods by which objectives will be accomplished.
  • Informs members of objectives and their expected individual contributions and responsibilities.
  • Keeps up to date on the progress of each member’s assignment.
  • Prepares meeting agenda and distributes relevant information to members before the meeting.
  • Ensures that meetings adhere to the major issues and purposes for which they are convened.
  • Stimulates thinking, bridges gaps in discussions and keeps discussions flowing.
  • Evaluates group efforts and keeps members abreast of accomplishments.
  • Encourages members’ active participation in Bar activities.
The chair should also:
  • Be able to communicate. Effective communication is a prime ingredient not only within the group, but with other groups, the governing body and related groups.
  • Be an active participant in the association.
  • Be open-minded and encourage free expression of ideas, opinions and recommendations by members.
  • Be able to command attention and inspire.
  • Be able to control without domination.
  • Have a working knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
  • Have initiative; be a self-starter.
  • Have prestige and respect within the profession. His or her opinions must command the respect of other members and of those who will be guided by committee/section findings.
  • Have an understanding of the power relationship within the group and the group’s relationship with other Bar entities.
  • Be knowledgeable about the subject area in which the group functions (this is particularly applicable to technical entities).
  • Be able to think and act in terms of the Bar’s overall goals and objectives.
  • Be able to create the right atmosphere for productive work.
  • Be able to carry out the responsibilities involved. This includes time and, if necessary resources.
  • Have a clear understanding of the position and role of the Bar management staff and need for a close working relationship.
The function and responsibilities of committee and section member include the following:
  • Attend all meetings.
  • Carry out individual assignments made by the chair.
  • Review all relevant material and agenda before meetings. Prepare to make contributions and voice opinions.
  • Promptly acknowledge all communications concerning committee/section work.
  • Determine availability for meetings and inform the chair or staff by requested deadline.
  • Make sure their organizations or superiors are fully aware of committee responsibilities and commitments.
  • Take an active part in all discussions.
  • Share relevant information and experiences with the group.
  • Understand and respect other ideas or conflicting viewpoints.
  • Attack problems objectively and impersonally.
  • Stay on the subject under discussion.
  • Ask for clarification on any point or problem when necessary.
  • Accept and follow through on assignments, respecting deadlines and parameters of assignments.

(Portions of the above are taken from “A Guide to Association Committees,” published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., 1976; and the Committee Handbook, Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, 1985). 


FACILITATING FUNCTIONS

To select and carry out a task, chairs should perform the following functions.
  • Initiate.  Suggest ways to proceed, ideas for solving a problem or way to tackle a task.
  • Seek information or opinions. Ask for facts, ideas, opinions, feelings, feedback, or clarification of suggestions.
  • Give information or opinions. Offer facts or generalizations, give ideas and suggestions. Provide relevant information.
  • Clarify and elaborate. Interpret ideas or suggestions. Clear up confusion. Define terms, indicating alternatives and issues before the group. Present examples and develop meanings.
  • Summarize. Pull together related ideas.
  • Consensus testing. Ask if the group is nearing a decision. Offer a decision or conclusion for the group to accept or reject.
To strengthen and control group life and activities, chairs should maintain these functions.
  • Harmonizing – attempting to reconcile disagreement, reduce tensions and get members to explore differences.
  • Gate-keeping – helping others to get into the discussion, e.g. “I would like to hear your opinion, Leah, if you would like to share it.” Suggest procedures that permit remarks by all.
  • Encouraging – being warm, friendly and responsive to other; indicating by facial expression or remarks the acceptance of others’ contributions. Praising others and their ideas.
  • Compromising – offering a compromise when his or her ideas are involved in a conflict, admitting errors and modifying positions in the interest of group cohesion or growth.
  • Expressing feelings – sharing his or her own feelings and expressing what he or she thinks are the feelings of the group as they react to ideas.
Behaviors that are not helpful and that detract from committee work include the following.
  • Aggression – criticizing or attacking others or the group; putting others down.
  • Blocking – going off on tangents. Talking about personal experiences unrelated to the problem. Arguing beyond reason without hearing others.
  • Withdrawing – acting indifferent or unconcerned. Being passive or not involved in the group task.
  • Competing – trying to produce the best ideas; talking the most. Attempting to be the most popular member of the group.
  • Dependency/Counter-dependency – leaning on or resisting anyone in the group who represents authority.

(The above was compiled from the “Group Development Model” of the U.S. Office of Education Right to Read Effort).


MEETINGS

Scheduling

You will be assigned a Bar staff liaison to provide administrative support and assistance in scheduling meetings. Once meeting dates are identified, your liaison will distribute meeting notices and track rsvps. The liaison will also reserve space for in person meetings, arrange for conference call lines and handle other items related to meetings (lunches, email communications, etc.).

It is advisable to set and publish in advance a meetings schedule for the upcoming year. (Annual schedules have been very successful for the Board of Governors and other groups.) An advance schedule allows you and your members to plan ahead and often removes the conflicts associated with less notice and/or attempts to set meetings as needed. Experience shows that it is easier to cancel a meeting at the last minute. A schedule also assures the availability of space at the Bar headquarters or new Conference Center.

Advance scheduling will also help your Bar staff liaison assist you in avoiding conflicts with other groups or Bar events.

Three (3) weeks advance notice is the minimum needed, except when an emergency issue arises. Your Bar liaison will assist you in the development and distribution of meeting notices. Members are requested to confirm their availability and attendance with the Bar staff liaisons.

Frequency

It is a good idea to plan to meet at least three (3) or four (4) times during the Bar year to ensure continuity and progress toward goals. Again, you can cancel which meetings you discover you do not need.

Agenda

Plan and prepare a written agenda for each meeting (or an outline of topics to be discussed) along with an expected duration. This should be communicated with the meeting notice to encourage advance preparation and to ensure attendance. Committee members will be able to review the issues and be prepared to discuss them. Specifically, include a statement of any action to be taken during the meeting and who will be designated to lead a discussion. You may wish to set time limits on debate.

You will find that a written agenda keeps you on target and your members engaged. It also gives notice of the direction your committee is taking and ample opportunity for all committee members to provide input and/or objection. Most importantly, it demonstrates a respect for the time of all involved.

Request that members who cannot attend write or telephone you or your Bar liaison prior to the meeting with comments/suggestions on the agenda and action to be taken. You can incorporate this information into the meeting and discussion.

Sections are expected to keep the membership at large actively engaged in the business conducted by the Executive Council. Education and awareness of issues being addressed will provide return on investment for section dues.

A nonresponsive chair can kill momentum for sections and committees indefinitely. If you find that you are unable to fulfill the duties of chair, please contact the Bar staff liaison or chair-elect immediately to develop a plan for continuation of activity.

Attendance

Implementing an advance schedule should improve member attendance at meetings. However, court conflicts, etc., may still prevent full attendance at meetings. Don’t let this stop or cause you to lose momentum. For the most part, Bar committees are not required to have a majority present – or even a quorum. If you talk with other committee chairs, you may find that goals were accomplished by three (3) or four (4) dedicated, “quality” committee members.

In-person Meetings and Conference Calls

Setting the right time and place for meetings can help to ensure good attendance and participation. Set a regular meeting time and place that is convenient for your members.  Staff liaisons are able to reserve conference rooms based on availability. 

If you elect to hold traditional meetings, let members know that you want their input even if they cannot be physically present. Again, invite members who cannot attend meetings to participate by reviewing the agenda and writing or telephoning you or your Bar liaison prior to the meeting.

Explore creative alternatives to having members physically present.

  • Conference Calls – Bar staff are able to accommodate telephone conference meetings using equipment present in the Bar buildings.
  • Videoconferencing/web conferencing – with proper advance notice and planning, the Bar staff can assist you in videoconferencing for members or speakers unable to attend in person.
  • Email – review and approval of simple issues or ratification of items can be accomplished by email when necessary. E.g. “Please review the attached. If you object to this action, contact Bar liaison on or before _________________.” Absent objections from the majority, our committee will proceed as proposed.” (NOTE:  If you receive viable objections with alternative approaches, you may wish to convene a meeting even if these objections do not constitute a majority.)
Minutes

Your Bar liaison will take notes during your meetings and record action taken. After you review these notes for accuracy, copies will be sent to all members for review. Depending on the nature and purpose of the meeting, you may want to give each member a week or ten (10) days to advise your committee liaison of corrections, changes, suggestions or improvements.

(NOTE: Draft minutes developed by liaisons are forwarded to the Assistant Executive Director and Executive Director for review to keep them apprised of relevant issues. Reports are also prepared periodically for the Board of Governors to keep them abreast of current developments.)

Tips for Running the Meeting
  • State the Purpose: Begin each meeting with a clear, concise statement of your objectives. Your meetings will produce best results if your members know the specific objectives at the outset. Define an agenda.
  • Stick to the Schedule: Promise to start and end the meeting at a certain time and keep your word. Your members have offices and clients to get back to, other meetings to attend or appointments to keep. They will feel better about coming to the meetings that proceed on schedule. At the close of the meeting, state the time and location of the next meeting.

    A meeting that drags on becomes meaningless and unproductive and may decrease future attendance. A well-paced meeting inspires participation, promotes action and stimulates future attendance.
  • Assign Tasks: Give members an opportunity to participate. Assign responsibility for obtaining additional information, doing research or studying specific problems or questions. Such assignments stimulate interest and enthusiasm.
  • Establish Open Communication: Encourage free expression of opinions. Discussion uncovers leadership talent and fosters friendly cooperation. Make every member feel that he or she has a unique contribution to make that will enhance the meeting. Use questions to trigger ideas from the group. Be alert to “group think” in which members seek agreement before analyzing the issue. 

BAR STAFF

Our Bar staff is one of the best in the country – let them help you achieve your goals. The Bar staff will assist you in everything from substantive matters such as goal planning, grant requests, and statistical information to administrative matters like meeting scheduling/notification, conference call set up, mailings, and record keeping. The role of the staff is to provide such assistance as is desirable and practicable for the accomplishment of goals and programs.

The Executive Director is responsible for staff oversight. While staff are assigned as liaisons to Bar entities, they are supervised via a reporting structure set by the Executive Director, in most instances reporting to Division Directors or the Assistant Executive Director. Volunteers are encouraged to voice feedback on legitimate, substantive staff performance concerns – however, they do not supervise staff.

Executive Director David Ross is an excellent source of information and guidance. Your first impression may be that he is “too busy” to help with committee work. He is very busy but you will find that he is always willing to provide assistance. If you have a special request or problem you believe requires more assistance than staff or your liaison can provide, please contact him personally or ask your liaison to discuss the matter with him for you (dross@scbar.org; 803-576-3765).

Assistant Executive Director Leah Johnson is an also an excellent source of information and guidance. Leah oversees the operations of the Membership Services and Communications Divisions as well as the Government Affairs program and is extremely knowledgeable on section and committee matters, policy and governance matters, and legislative initiatives and history. If you have a request or problem, please contact her personally or ask your liaison to discuss the matter with her for you (ljohnson@scbar.org; 803-576-3765). 

Click here for the Bar staff directory.

Liaisons

Each committee, section, task force and division will be assigned a staff person to act as a liaison. Staff will attend your meetings as a resource person and policy advisor. Liaisons serve many entities and, due to multiple demands on time, are not required to attend all subcommittee meetings. Attendance at subcommittee meetings of significant importance can be arranged on a case by case basis.

The liaison will keep minutes of your meetings and maintain a separate file on your entity. You are encouraged to review the files to learn about past projects and issues. Your Bar staff liaison can be your best friend and ally – sometimes making the difference in a successful year and an unsuccessful one. Begin your year by discussing your plans and goals with your staff liaison. Review with your liaison the services that are available to your group. Discuss with your liaison what level of assistance you anticipate needing. Be sure that any costs are covered in your budget or that you make a special request to have expenses reviewed and approved by the Board of Governors.

When your entity has a need, ask your Bar staff liaison for assistance. When in doubt, consult other Bar staff. Discretion should be exercised so that the staff has adequate time to devote to their regular office assignments and the requirement of the many other entities they also support.

The Bar maintains a file on a separate file on each committee and section. Again, you are encouraged to review the files to learn about old projects and prior history of actions. Hard copy files are retained for three (3) years before being discarded. Electronic records may contain deeper history.

Minutes will be filed by the staff promptly after each meeting including topics of discussion and attendance. The prompt filing of minutes will ensure their inclusion in the meeting notice distribution.

The jurisdiction of each entity is usually defined by the Board of Governors. If the defined scope of your entity’s work does not adequately reflect the work to be accomplished, or if it overlaps with another entity, please discuss proposed changes with the President or executive staff.

All mailings to members must be coordinated through the Bar office. 


HOUSE OF DELEGATES AND BOARD OF GOVERNORS

House of Delegates

The House of Delegates controls and formulates policy for the Bar. It has all the powers necessary or incidental to perform those functions. It also supervises and directs the Board of Governors, officers, sections, committees, boards, commissions, task forces, the Young Lawyers Division, Senior Lawyers Division, Law Student Division, employees and agents.

The House meets twice annually at the January Convention and May Annual Meeting. Special meetings of the House of Delegates may be called by the Board of Governors if needed.

Board of Governors

Between the meetings of the House of Delegates, the Board of Governors may perform, not inconsistent with the actions taken by the House, the functions that the House itself might perform. The Board of Governors is the governing body that determines the course and destination of your bar. The Board looks to Bar committees and sections for recommendations on special areas of concern. The Board prefers and encourages reports from appropriate committees before setting official Bar policies.

Only the Board of Governors and the House of Delegates can establish official policy. The Bar must act as a unit. Adoption of official positions by the Board (and House) furthers this goal. No positions regarding proposed legislation may be publicly announced without the prior approval of the Board of Governors.

News releases, public statements, and the granting of interviews concerning official Bar positions should be withheld pending discussions with the Bar president or consideration by the Board of Governors.

Obtaining Necessary Authorization

The Board of Governors meets frequently to act on Bar business. To bring a policy issue to its attention, submit a brief report on the issues involved to the Executive Director, including copies of any formal resolutions or motions approved by the committee, and a suggested resolution for consideration.

When necessary, the Board of Governors can meet on very short notice – in many instances by telephone – to reach immediate decisions. When urgent problems arise, call the Executive Director or President. The Board has scheduled conference call meetings in between its in person meetings. 


REPORTS & EXTERNAL PUBLICITY

The Board of Governors encourages communications from all chairs. Reports on activities, suggestions for action, and recommendations for formal policies are always welcome. However, the heavy volume of Bar business precludes the delivery of oral reports during meetings on a regular basis. Your staff liaison will prepare a periodic report for the President showing progress on your goals.

Let Lawyers Know

Reports on the work of your group will be of interest to fellow attorneys. We can bring your business, concerns and projects to the attention of the Bar through Bar publications (EBlast, CLE EBlast, SC Bar News, South Carolina Lawyer). In addition, specialized communications can be developed for specific programs or projects. Written reports from chairs may also be included as information items in the packets for meetings of the Board of Governors.

All committees and sections will be asked to submit an annual report. This report will be excerpted by publication by the Bar.

External Publicity

All public relations and marketing duties are executed by Bar staff to ensure consistency of messaging and compliance with Bar policy. When communicating needs, please remember that the Bar staff needs a significant of lead time to publicize your activities for optimal media placement and success. Publicity and e-marketing schedules are maintained by the Communications Division staff to avoid messaging overload and optimum placement. Please abide by publication deadlines.

For flyers, brochures, newsletters and other collateral material, sufficient time must be allowed for set-up, formatting and design, proofreading, printing or electronic publication. Remember that the staff works on multiple projects at a time. Because special mailings should be in the hands of members at least four (4) weeks prior to the event, at least eight (8) weeks should be allowed for publicity lead time (for printed materials). The Communications Director, Mary-Kathryn Craft, will be happy to work with you on your material (mcraft@scbar.org; 803-576-3773).

If your committee or section is conducting an event of public interest, news releases can be distributed to notify the media. Every effort will be made to provide coverage of newsworthy events. To obtain this assistance please contact the Content Strategist, Emily Stone (estone@scbar.org; 803-576-3771).

The Bar encourages the media to contact its offices to verify facts. On occasion, the President or Executive Director may refer a reporter to you for information about some aspect of law. You can assist the reporters by providing factual information and answering question; this is part of our effort to educate the public. If your personal view differs from that of the official position of the Bar, you MUST make it clear that you are not speaking on behalf of the Bar. Your view as committee chair MUST reflect the position of the Bar.

Remember that the President has the ultimate authority to speak on behalf of the Bar.

If your entity believes that some special effort is needed to inform the public about some particular aspect of law, contact your staff liaison. Your suggestions and cooperation are always appreciated. 


LEGISLATION

This member service is provided by Kali Campbell Turner (kturner@scbar.org; 803-576-3776) and Britton Jenkins (bjenkins@scbar.org; 803-576-3837). Appoint a person or persons on your committee, section or entity to be the legislative contact for receipt of timely information regarding legislative activity.

Bar entities can review issues or pending legislation and recommend the taking of a position. Those recommendations must be forwarded to the Board of Governors or House of Delegates for consideration.  Only the Bar president or his/her designee can speak for the Bar. Upon adoption of a legislative position, the Bar’s legislative staff work to secure the desired outcome. Committee and section leaders may be called upon to offer testimony to the General Assembly but must do so within the parameters of the adopted position. Sections and committees may not lobby on their own. Any personal statements or opinions issued by Bar leaders should be clearly disclosed as personal in nature.

Legislative services include:
  • Monitoring bill introduced in the Legislature and forwarding proposed bills to Bar committee and section contacts
  • Liaison with legislative commissions, committees and agencies
  • Direct assistance to Bar sections, committees and other entities which are evaluating and recommending legislative positions
  • Prompt communications with interested attorneys, sections and committees and county bar associations when proposals of special interest are scheduled for consideration in the General Assembly
  • Weekly “Legislative Updates” in EBlast
  • An annual end of session electronic report on adopted legislation and regulations for distribution to members
  • Liaison with the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office and consideration of federal measures
  • Liaison with the Bar’s Lawyer Legislator Committee

FINANCES

The expenditure of Bar funds is determined through an annual budgeting process set by the Executive Director and reviewed and approved by the Board of Governors and House of Delegates. Bar staff are charged with following internal accounting policies set by the Finance Division under the Executive Director’s supervision. While information regarding account balances and expenditures to date are able to be shared with volunteer leaders, decisions affecting budgetary compliance and accounts payable/receivable lie with the Executive Director.

The financial liability of the Bar to any section, committee, fund, or other organization with the Bar is limited to the funds credited to it on the financial records of the Bar and the liability ceases upon the financial administrator’s payment of that amount. If a section, committee, fund, or organization, or one of its members incurs a liability that is greater than the funds so credited, it is the obligation of each person responsible for incurring or authorizing the liability.

No volunteer is authorized to open any bank account in the Bar’s name or any of its entities’ names to facilitate activities. The Executive Director and Finance Director maintain accounts necessary to facilitate Bar operations.

Sections

Section funds are accumulated from annual dues paid by members. Those administered by the Bar’s financial administrator but are accounted for separately from the general fund. Annually, in the spring, 40% of section funds collected in that Bar year are transferred from section accounts to underwrite the administrative support allotted to each section.  Please review the Section Policies for additional information on Section Finances (Article X).

Committees

No specific funds are allocated to individual committees. Committees must obtain prior approval of the Board of Governors through the Executive Director before making expenditures.  


CLE SEMINARS & EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

Give something back to your membership. Sections often sponsor major sessions at the Convention. These programs feature panel discussions, noted speakers and updates on particular areas of law. The Bar Conventions Director and Coordinator will announce deadlines for submitting program requests. The Bar’s Conventions Committee annually selects a limited number of committees to host seminars at the Convention. Those requests must be submitted to the Conventions Committee via staff liaisons. Convention programs are popular and time and space are limited so plan far in advance for programs at these major meetings. Please review the Section Policies for additional information on Section Policy for Seminars at the Convention (Article IX).

Some sections or committees may wish to sponsor stand-alone seminars or seminars targeted specifically to their membership or area of practice. Please coordinate with your liaison and the CLE Division on these programs. 

 CLE Committee Mission Statement and Policy for Co-Sponsored Programs

 


GUIDE TO PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE

Although the lack of a meeting agenda can impair a group’s ability to get anything accomplished, another likely cause is ineffective us of parliamentary procedure. Before you spend another frustrating hour in an unproductive meeting, take a few moments to become familiar with parliamentary procedure and use your new insight to make all the meetings you attend more efficient.

Who needs parliamentary procedure?

Anyone who belongs to an organization should understand the basic principles of parliamentary procedure. Used correctly, it can help groups:

  • transact business efficiently
  • protect individual rights
  • maintain order
  • preserve a spirit of harmony, and
  • help the organization accomplish its goals.

How strictly an organization adheres to Robert’s Rules of Order depends largely upon group size and formality, how well group members understand parliamentary procedure, and the degree of formality that group members agree is important. A good rule of thumb is that the size of the group and the degree of formality should increase together.

Basic Principles
  1. Establish a quorum.   The power of any meeting is in the hands of the members present at the meeting. A quorum is the number of people who must be present to take legal action on business matters and is essential to conducting business meetings. The quorum is usually stipulated in organizational bylaws, and before any business is discussed the chair should establish for the record that a quorum exists.
  2. All members have equal rights.  These include the right to make motions, debate and vote. You need a two-thirds vote to deprive members of basic rights, such a closing or limiting debate and closing nominations.

    Most motions require only a simple majority for passage. If a higher percentage is required, the chair or parliamentarian should tell the group before the vote is taken.
  3. Debate, decorum and order.  Only one main motion – one subject – may be considered at a time, and only one person may speak at a time. These basic premises help a group focus its attention on a specific issue or action. Anyone who wishes to make a motion should first be recognized by the chair and preface the motion with the words, “I move that….”

    If someone wishes to second the motion, that person does not have to wait to be recognized but merely calls out, “I second the motion.” The requirement of a second ensures that at least two people will want to discuss an issue. Without a second, the motion dies and the chair should move on to the next subject on the agenda.

    After the motion has been made and seconded, the chair restates the motion, which is termed a main motion. Discussion begins. To ensure order, and that only one person speaks at a time, the chair should recognize members before they may speak. The chair should follow these principles in recognizing speakers.

    - Show preference to the person who made the motion.

    - Show preference to members who have not yet spoken and to those in the group who seldom speak. This principle prevents outspoken members from dominating the discussion.

    - Alternate between members who support and oppose the motion, assuming the chair knows (or can ascertain) the opinions of the various members.

    - Prevent discussion from degenerating into a heated exchange between two members. The rule of parliamentary procedure dictate that all remarks be directed to the chair. If members begin arguing, the chair must quickly remind the group to direct all remarks to the chair.

    - Confine discussion to the motion. Discussion not relevant to the main motion is out of order, and the chair should stop such remarks immediately
  4. Amendments. The purpose of an amendment is to change a motion already under consideration. If a member thinks the right topic is being discussed but wants to modify the wording of the motion, he calls for an amendment. Technically, a motion may be amended and the amendment to the motion may be amended, but no further amendments may be made.

    Amendments are motions, and as such, they require a second and full debate. During discussion of the main motion, any member who is recognized by the chair may propose an amendment by stating, “I move to amend the motion by…,” adding, deleting or changing words in the main motion. If the amendment receives a second, discussion then shifts to the amendment, not the main motion.

    When amendments are proposed, discussion and voting occur in reverse order. After the discussion has run its course, the chair asks “Are you ready to vote on the amendment?” If the amendment passes, the chair restates the main motion – or the amended amendment, which adds a step in the process – to reflect the new language. More discussion of the main motion as amended is permitted before the chair calls for the vote.
  5. Closing debate. A member who wishes to end debate may interrupt discussion and say “I move the previous question.” Variations that are accepted more informally include, “I call the previous question,” or simply, “I call the question.”

    This motion requires a second and must receive a two-thirds majority vote, as it is an infringement on individual rights. Should it receive a two-thirds majority, the chair then states, “The previous question has been called."  All those in favor of the motion to…” Thus, closing debate requires two votes.
Points to Recognize

Use the rules of parliamentary procedure to get things done, not to gum up the works. Parliamentary procedure ensures that the group hears and discusses minority viewpoints. However, once the group takes action on a motion, the entire group should support it. Group unity is essential for effectiveness.

The sole purpose of parliamentary procedure is to provide a flexible, comfortable way to conduct group business. The next time you are at a meeting that has lost its focus, ask yourself what subject you are supposed to be discussing. Then take responsibility for bringing the group back to the topic at hand.

(Portions of the above were taken from “Board Primer,” Leadership 1993)

 


SUMMARY

You have been placed in this position of leadership because you have demonstrated interest, capacity, responsibility, creativity and enthusiasm.

In short, you are considered a Bar leader and as such, your opinions, ideas and contributions are highly valued. Do not hesitate to call on any member of the Board or Bar staff:

  • To brainstorm
  • To ask questions
  • To get staff support
  • To offer suggestions
  • To give constructive criticism
  • And, yes, even to gripe when necessary.

The Bar’s Board of Governors and staff are always willing to listen and to help you improve your profession, your practice, and your Bar.