By: Zach Mazuzan
Catherine Gratton Atterbury grew up in Montreal, Canada. She studied engineering at McGill University, while pursuing a professional ski racing career. After graduation, her first job was coding for a medical device start-up working to develop automated and data-based seizure detection. Law school was more of a distant idea, but Catherine definitely knew she was not an engineer at heart. After moving to Syracuse, through a set of odd circumstances, in her early 20s, Catherine walked into the Syracuse College of Law Admissions Office and hand delivered her application.
Law school was a natural fit; Catherine very quickly felt at home in the law school setting. There was certainly a hard adjustment period as she familiarized herself with living in a new country and city, coupled with the stress of class and the workload, but Catherine enjoyed learning about the law as well as its history. She immediately knew she had made the right choice attending law school. Following her first year, Catherine joined Law Review and served as a Notes and Comments Editor during her third year. On Law Review, Catherine learned the importance of working toward a common goal while being a key member of a self-run organization. She learned many valuable lessons through trial-and-error ranging from the importance of producing a polished work product and the ability to balance multiple important tasks, to how to go about working with a large group of diverse individuals to achieve a common goal.
After a summer in New York at White & Case, Catherine ultimately accepted an offer as a full-time associate after graduation. Her background in science landed Catherine in the Intellectual Property (IP) group. These first few working years outside of law school helped Catherine hone her legal skills and she credits her time with White & Case for truly showing her how to become an effective lawyer. White & Case’s Syracuse alumni (like Michael A. Bottar, Justin Brown, Joe Schmidt, and Don McNaughton) were always willing to help, show her the ropes and make her feel at ease joining the firm out of law school. A can-do attitude and a willingness to always take on new challenges has been a constant theme throughout Catherine’s legal career.
At White & Case, Catherine was asked to spend time with the firm’s largest client, Deutsche Bank, for a few months to cover some IP transactions in their technology group. She looks back fondly upon her six years at White & Case because she believes they were instrumental in sharpening her teeth as a lawyer. She remains in touch with several mentors and credits them for showing her the basics. Catherine joined Deutsche Bank full-time in 2012. She realized that while working at a big law firm helped her quickly develop legal skills, the legal component is just one piece of the greater business puzzle. From working with the business side of mergers and acquisitions, including several technology acquisitions, Catherine engaged more and more with holistic business matters. She had great mentors who helped her clearly frame the difference between working at outside counsel and being in house, and was able to become a very effective internal counselor to the businesses she served. Catherine quickly identified that her strengths were as an adviser on legal matters but within a business setting. She became a trusted partner and someone to call for the big picture and a bit of common sense.
Through creating and maintaining connections and a couple of serendipitous meetings, Catherine joined JPMorgan in 2017 to build out a data analytics group. This group was focused on developing ways to leverage the data JPMorgan had available to them to provide clients with better training insights. While at JPMorgan, Catherine gained exposure to the rise of blockchain technology and became interested in the legal challenges around cryptocurrencies and non-fiat forms of payment. In 2021, as crypto and blockchain were gaining more and more worldwide interest, Catherine took a leave of absence from JPMorgan to help out Kaiko, a Paris-based Series A data start-up focused on blockchain data. She officially joined Kaiko’s executive team in 2021 as General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer. She has seen Kaiko grow through Series A and Series B funding and from 20 employees to over 100 employees today. Catherine deals with everything that touches any legal component. Kaiko is a cryptocurrency market data provider for institutional investors and Catherine’s experience dealing with data analytics at JPMorgan and her experience with trading platforms at Deutsche Bank made her a natural fit for the company.
Despite all her success and career accomplishments, her legal experience as a volunteer lawyer in the Bronx family court sticks out. At White & Case, Catherine did pro bono work for a legal aid initiative called Her Justice that provides legal resources to women who need representation in a range of legal matters. Working in court and winning legal victories for those who truly needed help showed Catherine the importance of being an effective advocate to obtain victories that appear small but have a high value to those who cannot advocate for themselves. Legal work can have a profound impact on the lives of other people and helping represent those individuals helped Catherine to gain confidence in herself and her legal abilities.
As far as advice to current law students and recent graduates goes, Catherine has one resounding message which has helped her throughout her career: be open to new opportunities and never discount any experience. Saying yes to new challenges, offering to help a partner on a new case or project, sitting in on court proceedings during an externship, listening in on client calls with a more senior attorney at your firm, can all have a profound impact on a young legal career, and lead you to your next step or project. Catherine credits her professional success to her hard work, openness to meeting new people, and interest in other people’s stories. Not everything is linear and staying open to learning new things and positive about new challenges opens doors you might otherwise not see.