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Ramsay D. Potts, a nationally ranked amateur tennis player for most of his long life, always attacked the ball with vigor and intensity. But even as he walloped the ball, somehow he made it look easy. Likewise, he had a grace and ease in the way he worked with clients and in the way he managed the Washington, D.C., law firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman), which he helped to found and then run for more than 30 years. Ramsay passed away May 28 at Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach, Fla., after a stroke. He was 89. I met Ramsay in 1979, when I was an associate new to the firm and to the profession. From the start he was a mentor and a role model. To this young associate, his calm under pressure and ability to maintain an air of self-confidence under the most stressful situations were very impressive. I owe much of my success to him. And I’m not the only one who can say that Ramsay was both a colleague and a friend. As one longtime partner says, “People respected him and trusted him. They knew that he would do the right thing.” Sometimes he could use that trusted air to amusing results. His youngest brother, Stephen, the firm’s first associate and a former partner, tells a great story about Ramsay’s sense of humor. Ramsay convinced Steve to leave a very good job in Tennessee to join him in Washington. Would Ramsay’s new firm succeed? It was a big risk for Steve, but he came. And what did Ramsay do on that first day to reassure his brother? He ushered him into a small workroom where a sheet of plywood sat on two sawhorses. As Steve recalled years after, he was “concerned.” That is, until Ramsay laughed and took Steve to his real office. Another quality has stuck with me as I reflect on Ramsay’s long life: He respected the individuality in all of us, and he was impartial and fair with all of us. At the firm, Ramsay fostered an environment of collegiality and mutual respect among lawyers of all stripes. One of his successors as managing partner recalled that Ramsay “saw the humanity and dignity and potential of every young lawyer with whom he worked.” Ramsay taught us things they don’t teach in law school, such as how to become a trusted adviser to a client. He emphasized the importance of understanding a client’s business. He advised us never to surprise a client. His overarching message was that we should always be available to our clients and let them know their matters are at the top of our list of priorities. Like many men of his age, Ramsay didn’t talk a lot about his experiences in World War II. Over time, I learned from history books, friends, and colleagues that he was a highly decorated combat pilot who flew B-24 Liberator bombers in missions over occupied Europe and North Africa. He rose up the ranks quickly, becoming a colonel at age 27 and then the leader of bombing operations for the 8th Air Force. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1972 as a major general and will receive a full military burial at Arlington National Cemetery. His name is already memorialized in a number of museums, including the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum near Savannah, Ga., and the American Air Museum in Duxford, U.K. I believe Ramsay translated those leadership skills he nurtured during war into the management skills needed for his law firm, which he founded in 1954 with Steuart Pittman and Brackley Shaw and managed until 1986. A fair, generous, and inclusive leader, Ramsay Potts created a strong and collegial firm at which every individual could achieve his or her fullest potential. Perhaps his greatest tribute is this: In the 30 years that he held the helm, not one partner left the firm to join another.
Sheila M. Harvey is a partner in the D.C. office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

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