Paul Heldman was born and reared in Cincinnati. He graduated from Walnut Hills High School before heading to Boston University, where he majored in journalism. After graduating, Heldman found there were limited career opportunities in journalism and returned home to work in his family’s business.
Heldman wanted to go to law school, however; since he was already in Cincinnati, he choose UC Law. “There were two important things I got out of law school,” he said. “First, I gained an interest in labor law; second—and more importantly—I met my wife.” Heldman is married to Deborah Kirshner ’77, and they have three children: Leanna, Alex, and Mady.
He attributed his interest in labor law to former UC Law professor John Murphy. “The law school experience is unique,” he said, “and that’s good, because it creates and cements a sense of professional affiliation and the particular role lawyers play. Professor Murphy brought something more, however. He was really excited by his subject, and he was able to connect it to real life situations beyond academics.” Heldman never lost the interest in labor law that Professor Murphy helped cultivate in him.
During his summers in law school, Heldman worked at his family’s business. He also worked as an intern with the juvenile court. Following law school, he took a position as a juvenile court public defender for a short time before starting at a law firm. That firm is now known as Beckman, Weil, Shepardson.
After almost five years at the law firm, he left to work at Kroger, where he could work more specifically on labor law. Next month Heldman will complete his 28th year with the company.
During his tenure at Kroger, Heldman’s job responsibilities have changed as he has risen through the ranks. When he began, he focused primarily on labor and employment law as in-house counsel. Said Heldman, “At any time, there are three to four attorneys doing that type of work for Kroger. I enjoyed it as it was interesting, intense, and exciting.” He served as in-house counsel for several years before leading the practice. Additionally, he has been able to expand his experiences. In fact, Heldman was involved in the takeover fight that Kroger underwent in the 1980s. He said he was able to learn a lot from that experience, including learning more about financial aspects of the company from the people he worked with during that time.
In 1989 Heldman became general counsel for Kroger. Initially his work focused on financing transactions and working with the board of directors as Kroger was recovering from the large debt it had incurred while fighting the takeover. Today, his work is varied, changing as Kroger business interests have changed. In addition to responsibility for the labor relations group, much of his work he is still related to labor and corporate governance. On his desk at the time of this interview were various employment law cases, preparation materials for various board meetings, and revisions to the company’s business ethics policy revisions, among other things. While his workload is demanding, he also explained that he is grateful to have a wonderful group of attorneys with whom he can share the work.
By Lindsay Mather '11