Patty First

Principal & Founder


We call Patty First the “client whisperer.” She intuits exactly what clients need, listens to precisely what they’re telling her, and then works with them in a calm, direct, and strategic style to get the job done. With a career dedicated to advancing progressive legislation and helping organizations and people become their best selves, Patty is one of the foremost policy advocates on immigration, women’s rights, movement strategy, and coalition building in the nation. She has been a valuable member of The Raben Group team since our founding and serves as a founding principal and lead of various client teams across the progressive sector. 

Patty leads major campaigns for a variety of nonprofit organizations, helps foundations navigate federal policy, and supports non-profit organizations with strategic planning and organizational development to help them do their best work in the world. Her diplomatic and persuasive approach combines unparalleled legal and policy expertise with a talent for building and nurturing client relationships. Industry-wide, she is known for distilling complex issues and keeping her clients focused on the big picture. Patty doesn’t simply take the wheel — she’s an astute listener, and her decisions are informed, first and foremost, by the direction the client wants to go.

Patty is also an executive coach and positive psychology practitioner, with certifications in both, who uses coaching and positive psychology to help people and organizations become their best selves by showing up fully in their work and their lives. She uses her own experience leading campaigns and coalitions to help social justice leaders flourish without burning out, and to structure organizations to thrive.

Prior to joining Raben, Patty was on the front lines of the struggle for humane immigration policy and civil rights. She worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee as counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, where she helped craft landmark immigration legislation. She also served under Janet Reno as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office for Legislative Affairs, and litigated voting rights and redistricting cases as a trial attorney in the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

Patty earned her law degree at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Career Highlights

  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General in DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Trial Attorney in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Voting Section
  • Counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy