Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Do I need an attorney to find out about state law for my organization?

© CanStock Photo/andrewgenn

Dear Dinosaur:  How can I find out about state laws pertaining to my organization? Do I have to hire an attorney?

Answer: You can learn about your state’s laws pertaining to your type of organization on your own. You do not have to have a law degree to read the law and understand its plain meaning. You may need to consult an attorney, however, for some of the implications of the law, and how it applies to your situation. Here are some options:

  • See if the Secretary of State offers documentation or information for your type of organization. In Washington State, for example, you can obtain useful PDFs and a comprehensive handbook at this link. 
  • Many states are members of the National League of Cities. Their state organization may have resources available.
  • Many states are members of the National Association of School Boards.
  • In some states, there are service organizations that provide relevant information. Montana has the Local Government Services Bureau,  for example, and Minnesota has the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
  • You can just search for “[my state] law of nonprofit organizations” or “[my state] law for utility districts,” etc., and see what you come up with.
  • Here is an article that Jurassic Parliament prepared in 2022 about the new nonprofit law in Washington state:


Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.

Posted in

Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.