Cathy M. Kaplan ’77

The Bigger Picture

Fall 2010

Cathy M. Kaplan ’77, a partner at Sidley Austin, comes from a family of accomplished women. Her mother, Ann Kaplan ’46, attended Columbia Law School with Constance Baker Motley ’46. Her aunt, going strong at 91, still works in higher education as the dean of a college. For her part, Kaplan was one of the first female partners at Brown & Wood, which merged with Sidley Austin
in 2001.

Kaplan’s career is a lesson in success through adaptation. She began working in tax-exempt health financing, but when the market for the field shrunk, she shifted her focus to structured finance work. Her résumé now boasts experience on complex transactions in countries around the world, including Japan, Turkey, Germany,
and Argentina.

“What’s interesting about transactional work is that you’re part of the economy,” Kaplan explains. “You’re listening to, thinking about, and affecting the most macroeconomic issues.”

And she is making an impact in other ways, too. Recently, Kaplan has devoted a great deal of time to supporting Sidley Austin’s civic ventures, such as inMotion, an organization that focuses on providing free legal services to low-income women who have been the victims of domestic violence. The longtime patron of the arts also serves on the Whitney Museum’s photography committee and is a trustee of the Aperture Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes photography.

“I’ve always felt that you can control your own career,” Kaplan says about the nature of professional life. “So much of it is just energy, and asking for and knowing what you want.”