Commission for CLE > History of the Commission A Brief History of the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education

The Commission Then and Now

By Julia Orzeske, Executive Director

In 1986, Indiana became the 18th state to require attorneys to receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE).  This was far from the beginning of CLE in Indiana, however.  ICLEF, the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, had already been in existence since 1964, as a CLE provider. 

In 1984, an Indiana State Bar Association task force was created to investigate CLE in the other 17 mandatory CLE states.  This task force drafted a CLE rule, which was passed by the ISBA House of Delegates and then tendered to the Indiana Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court adopted this version of the mandatory continuing legal education rule for lawyers and judges and made it effective October 1, 1986.  This rule was largely unchanged until major amendments were made effective in 1997. 

The founding CLE Commissioners represented a wide spectrum of Indiana’s Bar.  The Honorable Robert H. Staton of the Indiana Court of Appeals was the first chair of the Commission.  Other members included:

  • Paul F. Arnold, Evansville
  • Honorable Sarah Evans Barker, Indianapolis
  • C. Harvey Bradley, Jr., Indianapolis
  • James E. Bourne, New Albany
  • Angelo A. Buoscio, Merrillville
  • Miles C. Gerberding, Fort Wayne
  • Honorable Gary K. McCarty, Liberty
  • David T. Ready, South Bend
  • Thomas L. Ryan, Lafayette
  • Richard J. Wood, Bedford

These Commissioners were sworn in by the Indiana Supreme Court on November 25, 1986 and held their first meeting that same morning.  At the time, there were approximately 10,500 practicing attorneys in the state.  It was estimated that the original $10 per attorney assessment would raise $100,000 to $110,000 in start-up funds.  Attorneys or education sponsors were also to pay the Commission $1.00 per credit hour.  

The original rule had an exemption for newly admitted attorneys and allowed them to begin reporting CLE the 4th year after admission.  While the CLE year is now based on the calendar year, originally, it ran from October 1 to September 30. 

The Commission hired Anne Davidson from the Clerk’s office to be the Secretary for the office.  (Ms. Davidson is now the Office Manager and the Mediation Services Coordinator.)  The first CLE office was located at 1800 North Meridian in Indianapolis.  It later moved to 101 West Ohio (above the former Greyhound Bus station).  In 1994, the CLE Commission moved to the South Tower of the National City Center (the Hyatt).  As of January 1, 2008, the office is now located at 30 South Meridian (the old L.S. Ayres’ Men’s Store location). 

The first meeting at which course accreditations were considered was March 20, 1987.  There was a lot to talk about.  The transcript, recorded by a Court Reporter, is 95 pages long. 

In the early days, the Commission made accreditation decisions for all courses.   A “credit committee” first reviewed each and every course and then made a recommendation to the full Commission.

At a meeting March 3, 1988, the Commission announced that the Indiana Supreme Court had chosen Merrill Moores as the Commission’s first Executive Director from a list of three candidates sent from the Executive Committee.  Mr. Moores served until 1991.  Terri Newman-Worrell served as Executive Director from 1991 to March 1994.  The current Executive Director, Julia Orzeske, was hired in 1994. 

At the outset, the Commission was not responsible for handling funds.  All monies were paid to and disbursed from the Clerk’s office.  In 1994, the Indiana Supreme Court made the Commission directly responsible for handling its own funds. 

Originally, the Commission’s only work was accreditation of CLE and regulation of attorney CLE requirements at traditional classroom courses.  This soon changed as new areas of responsibility were added to the Commission’s charge.  A 1995 Supreme Court order created an ethics requirement.  In 1997, Specialization and Mediation were added to the Commission’s job description.  The 1997 amendments also created non-legal subject matter courses, allowing attorneys for the first time to receive credit for non-legal courses which enhance their competence.  In 1998, an amendment eliminated the three-year exemption for newly admitted attorneys, adding many more attorneys to the Commission’s database.  Newly admitted attorneys were also required to complete an Applied Professionalism Course within their first three-year cycle.  A 2005 amendment allowed attorneys to receive credit through distance education.  Effective January 1, 2011, the Commission will regulate Continuing Judicial Education (CJE) separately from CLE.

Specialization and Mediation

The Commission now keeps records for over 267 specialist listings1, about 1300 mediators and 18,000 attorneys.  The specialization function involves an in-depth review of independent certifying organizations’ (ICOs) financial and governing status, certification requirements for attorneys, the specialization exams and appeal policies.

The Commission interacts with an advisory panel of practitioners, professors, deans and judges who review the exams.  A psychometrician gives an opinion and recommendation as to whether a specialty exam is a reliable and valid measure of the knowledge being tested. 
The Commission has accredited four Independent Certifying Organizations (ICO’s) in 9 practice areas. A new practice area accredited in 2013 is the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification/National Board of Trial Attorneys' specialty of Civil Pre-trial Practice. 

ICO Practice Area No. of Indiana Attorneys

Indiana State Bar Association

Family Law


American Board of Certification

Consumer Bankruptcy


American Board of Certification

Business Bankruptcy


American Board of Certification

Creditors Rights


National Board of Legal Specialty Certification/ National Board of Trial Advocacy

Civil Trial Advocacy


National Board of Legal Specialty Certification/ National Board of Trial Advocacy

Criminal Trial Advocacy


National Elder Law Foundation

Elder Law


Indiana State Bar Association

Estate and Planning Administration


Contract attorney, Joy Tolbert, provides staff assistance and support to the Commission on issues of specialization. 

In the area of mediation, the Commission determines which mediators should be eligible for registration on the list of Court Approved Mediators.  The original registry, published in 1997, had listings for 235 civil mediators and 110 domestic relations mediators.  The Commission now has listings for 648 civil mediators and 677 domestic relations mediators.  Each of these mediators has a continuing mediation education requirement, which the Commission also regulates. 

The Commission’s current CLE workload

Last year, in fiscal year 2011-2012, the Commission reviewed about 12,.55 courses.  In 1987,the first year for which statistics were available, the Commission reviewed 687 courses. 

Those attorneys who do not comply with their CLE requirements are suspended from the practice of law by the Indiana Supreme Court.  Those few attorneys who continue to practice law despite a suspension are prosecuted for contempt.  The Disciplinary Commission provides a staff attorney to assist in the prosecution of contempt cases.

The Commission office has gone from one staff member in 1986 (Anne Davidson) to six.  It now includes four administrative assistants (Pam Bush, Lana James, Meredith Light and Kristie Law); one office manager (Anne Davidson); one executive director (Julia L. Orzeske); a contract attorney for specialization (Joy Tolbert).  The Commission may soon also house the executive director for the national association of CLE regulators, CLEreg. 

The Commission still has eleven members, but has added a liaison from the Judges’ ADR Committee of the Judicial Conference (the Honorable L. Mark Loyd, the current Chair of that Committee).  Commission members are appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court from around the state.  The Supreme Court has demonstrated its commitment to practice, geographic, racial and gender diversity through its Commission appointments.  The Commission even has two non-attorney members:  Howard Mzumara, PhD, a university professor and psychometrician and Catherine Springer, the former Director for the Indiana Judicial Center.

The current Commissioners are: John Ulme, Chair (Goshen); Honorable John T. Sharpnack, Vice-Chair (Columbus); Angela L. Freel, Treasurer (Evansville); Steven M. Badger, Secretary (Indianapolis); the Honorable Charles K. Todd Jr. Immediate Past-Chair (Hagerstown);  the Honorable Nancy E. Boyer (Fort Wayne); Steven A. Spence (Indianapolis); Howard Mzumara, PhD. (Indianapolis); Catharine Springer (Indianapolis); Shontrai D. Irving (Crown Point); Christina J. Miller (Merrillville)  

Staying Connected, Working With Others

The Commission has made an effort to stay involved in professional associations that reflect attorneys’ needs and expectations.  The Director and Office Manager are active in CLEreg (formerly ORACLE), the professional association of mandatory CLE regulators, and both are past presidents of that organization.  The Commission office houses the first-ever Executive Director of CLEreg and offers technical support. 

The Director is active in the PLEADS (Professionalism, Leadership, Education and Admission to the Bar Section) and ADR Sections of the Indiana State Bar Association.  She serves on the ISBA Board of Governors and is a member of the Leadership Forum Planning and Wellness Committees of the ISBA.  She is a past chair of PLEADS and served as the General Chair of the ISBA Annual fall meeting in 2007.  She has recently completed a term as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Specialization. She strives to remain updated on matters of mediation, specialization and Continuing Legal Education and reports on developments in these areas to the Commission.  Commissioners are also supported in their efforts to become more active in these areas as well.

In addition to formal memberships in professional groups, the Director and her staff try to stay apprised of the demands of the changing nature of the practice of law and methods of educating attorneys. 

The Commission works closely with the Board of Law Examiners, the Disciplinary Commission, and the Judges ADR Committee of the Judicial Center, the Clerk’s Office, the Office of State Court Administration, and the Supreme Court Administrator’s Office and the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program (JLAP).

The Charge from the Supreme Court

The Indiana Supreme Court does not direct the day-to-day activities of the Commission.  It has enabled the Commission to regulate by enacting Admission and Discipline Rules 28, 29 and 30 and the Indiana Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules.  Its appointees to the Commission interpret these rules and enact policies that assist the Executive Director in her management of the Commission and regulation of attorney and judicial education, specialization and the mediation registry.  The Commission is grateful for the support and encouragement it receives from the Court.

Conclusion and Looking Ahead

In its 27-year history, the Commission has grown from a tiny office with fledgling responsibilities to a professional organization that is viewed as a leader in several regulatory areas.  As we examine the past and the growth patterns of the Commission’s responsibilities we find it is reasonable to assume the Indiana attorney, mediator and specialist population will double in the next fifteen to twenty years. It is also reasonable to assume the Commission may develop new areas of responsibility. 

To address these growing challenges, Commission members continue to stay apprised of changes in the practice and encourage the educational processes to address these changes.  As we move into our third decade, the Commission strives to remain responsive to the needs of the public, the bar and the Court as it continues to focus on improving attorney competence through education and specialty certification and on improving mediator competence through education and registration. 

1. Some attorneys are certified as specialists in more than one practice area.