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Paula Holderman

Paula Holderman

Former Chicago attorney | Past president, Illinois Bar | Class of 1976

If only Paula Holderman’s courthouse colleagues could have seen the distinguished 137th president of the Illinois State Bar during her college days — go-go boots and all.

The dress code for cocktail waitresses back then at Chances R on Chester Street was a wee bit different from what Holderman wound up wearing to work as a partner at one of the country’s largest law firms, Chicago’s Winston & Strawn.

“Of course, the business is no longer there, but it was thriving in the early 1970s, attracting university students, townies, Champaign cops and ‘flyboys’ from Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul,” says Holderman (BA ’76), who married a fellow Illini-turned-legal-bigshot — James Holderman, the recently retired federal judge.

“We waitresses wore very short red, white and blue vinyl miniskirts with knee-high white go-go boots. Before iPhones and even computers, we computed the tabs in our head and gave change from metal coin belts slung low across our hips. A regular group of Champaign police officers would get off the late shift and stop by the ‘back room’ to drink and flirt with the waitresses.

“Around 2 a.m., the bartenders, cocktail waitresses and an assortment of cops would head to an all-night greasy spoon truck stop on North Prospect for bacon and eggs.

“Thinking back on those days, I shake my head and wonder how we graduated and went on to have successful careers — but maybe that’s a life skill we learned at the U of I, too.”