Spring 2014


David Patterson, ’74: Leaving the Door Open

By Amy Spooner

David Patterson, ’74
David Patterson, ’74

For some, law school can represent turmoil and uncertainty. For David Patterson, ’74, all of that was behind him by the time he finally set foot in the Quad. 

Patterson earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1968; the very next day, he had to report for his draft physical back home in Ohio. He didn’t know if he was going to be drafted or be accepted into the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, but one thing he knew for certain was that his dream of attending law school was on indefinite hold. 

That’s when the University of Michigan Law School did something that Patterson has never forgotten: The admissions office told him that his offer of admission would be waiting whenever he was able to accept it. 

“It really made a difference to me, that I wouldn’t have to go through the whole application process again when I was done in the service,” he says. “Knowing that a place I was so proud to be admitted to would leave the door open like that was incredibly reassuring.” 

In gratitude, now it is Patterson who is helping to open doors. He recently made a $1 million gift to endow a Darrow Scholarship, which offers a full ride to Michigan Law’s most exceptional students. 

“My time at Michigan was such a critical point in my life. Michigan provided stability during a very unstable time, and it gave me the foundation for a wonderful career,” he says. 

After a three-and-a-half-year admissions deferment during his service in the Navy, Patterson embraced the law school experience wholeheartedly. 

“I was finally moving down the career path I had envisioned, and it was everything I had hoped for. The education was tremendous, as were my classmates. I felt elevated just being on the Law School’s grounds.” The elation spilled out of the Quad for the Columbus-area native. “I grew up as an Ohio State fan but started to see their followers as being more than a little over the top. I got caught up in the mood on Football Saturdays in Ann Arbor and have been an avid Michigan fan ever since.” 

Although initially he was unsure of his post-graduation goals, participating in Moot Court gave Patterson the confidence to pursue a litigation career. He became an associate at Vorys Sater, which at the time was the biggest firm in Columbus. After a few years of getting his feet wet in Big Law, he moved to a smaller firm, where he could spend more time in the courtroom. Patterson enjoyed the variety of the litigation—from insurance defense to business matters to personal injury. But eventually, the excitement of litigation ran its course. “I felt myself going sideways and liked the idea of using some of the other skills I had learned in law school,” he says. When he talked to Jim Readey, a friend who had opened his own mediation and arbitration practice, Patterson saw the opportunity for a new challenge. 

Readey & Patterson quickly developed a reputation as the go-to firm in central Ohio for the burgeoning field of arbitration and mediation—a reputation that was enhanced by the partners’ previous litigation experience. Patterson relished the chance to work directly with all parties involved to creatively help resolve disputes as quickly as possible. “I got a lot more thank yous doing mediation than I did in 25 years of being a trial lawyer,” he says. 

With his generous gift to the Law School, more thank yous are sure to come Patterson’s way, especially from the students who will receive support from his scholarship. “Education should be available to all,” says Patterson. 

“My wife and I have been fortunate in the opportunities we were given. It’s very satisfying to know that this gift can provide opportunities for those who might not otherwise have them.”