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 litigating for civil rights and advancing progressive legislation, Patty is one of the foremost policy advocates on immigration, women’s rights, campaign strategy, and coalition building in the nation. She has been a valuable member of the Raben team since our founding and serves as a founding principal and lead of various client teams across the progressive sector. She also directs Raben_Impact, a platform from which movements are studied, taught, and improved; and from which her social justice work will continue, as a complement to her client services.

Patty leads major campaigns for a variety of foundations and nonprofit organizations. 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 litigation and legal 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 a Martha Beck-trained executive and life coach who uses her coaching to help clients 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 avoid — and come back from — burnout.

Prior to joining Raben, Patty was on the front lines of the struggle for humane immigration policy and civil rights. She worked for three years 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