A Letter to My Younger Self

Patti, a white woman with shoulder-length blond hair, wears a blue suit. In the background is blurred foliage. By Patti Ramseur

Dear Patti (age 26),

You just graduated law school, got married, and started your clerkship with Judge Walker. You will learn so much from Judge Walker! He is a great mentor and will continue to be an important part of your life for many years to come. You will enjoy your DINK (double income no kids) status, while you try to learn how to be a lawyer and focus on tackling the significant law student debt you incurred. Be diligent in paying down your law student loans, but always remember this is an important part of what makes you who you are. It makes you truly appreciate the opportunity to be a lawyer and part of this noble profession.

Are you sitting? You are currently the president of this amazing group of attorneys, the North Carolina Bar Association! I know that’s difficult for you to imagine. The NCBA will be critical to your growth and development, both professionally and personally. So jump in (soon!) and participate at every opportunity you get. The current Chair of the NCBA’s Young Lawyer Division asked me to write a letter to my younger lawyer self, so here are a few tips for you:

  • Do excellent work. It’s important to put in the time, be prepared, and create a good work product, even if it means you write off some of your time.
  • Be respectful and civil to everyone — clients, opposing counsel, judges, all court personnel, and everyone with whom you interact. You will be a better attorney and happier individual for having done so. This also means that you should avoid “burning any bridges,” if at all possible. It’s remarkable how your path will cross — time and time again — with people from your past.
  • Volunteer your time and talents with the NCBA and NCBF. When you volunteer with the NCBA and NCBF, you get to help others in need, but you also get to meet other legal professionals who will become some of your closest friends.
  • Surround yourself with people (both lawyers and non-lawyers) who are smarter, kinder, better, and work harder than you. Have you heard the quote by Jim Rohn that says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with?” I’ve also heard it as “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, including yourself.” Either way, the company you keep will affect you in both your personal and professional life, positively or negatively. That’s why you now practice employment law with Alex Maultsby and Tina Hlabse.  (maybe they won’t read this letter and know that you are the weak link . . . )
  • Just be yourself. Even if you wanted, you can’t be anyone other than you. Over the years, you will get to practice law with some amazing lawyers. Watch and learn. Emulate the good things they do that work for you, but don’t try to be them. Remember, you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psalm 139:14. Just be yourself, and try to use the gifts and opportunities you are given to the best of your ability to glorify God.
  • Accept (early on) that you can’t please everyone. You can and should turn away clients who you know won’t be happy. When you do the right thing, you have to be OK with the fact that some people may not like it, and you may not be able to change how they feel about you or the situation.
  • Enjoy it all. There will be challenges ahead, but it’s going to be a fun ride. (By the way, although this has not yet crossed your mind, you are going to have two amazing daughters, who will inspire you and change your entire world in ways you can’t even imagine.)


Patti (age 51)

Patti Ramseur serves as president of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Foundation.