FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Perkins Coie Partner, Kari Larsen
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
Where there is FinTech, there is a crucial need for legal counsel and regulatory regimes within all financial technology services and products. From start-ups to well-established companies, Kari Larsen is a Partner with an esteemed impact. Kari sat down with NYC FinTech Women and highlighted her career arc, including the highs and lows, pivoting as finance has revolutionized (Hello, crypto!), and how mentors have impacted her along the way.
Full name: Kari Larsen
Job title: Partner
Current company: Perkins Coie
Current location: Mamaroneck, New York
Works from: Home
Favorite hobby: Building Lego sets, the bigger and more complicated the better
Favorite part of your day: I still read to my boys every night before bed. Snuggling with them reading (right now) the Lord of the Rings keeps me happy and centered.
Productivity hack: Small rewards for completing tasks: quick breaks to read headlines, chat with the kids, phone game before returning to work, etc. This breaks up the day but keeps you focused on completing your tasks.
Kari Larsen’s career arc is defined by a traditional finance background combined with her extensive legal-proficiency and has led her to have an outstanding impact on FinTech products and services. Kari represents many clients, from startups to established companies breaking into new offerings, that are developing cutting-edge financial technology services and digital asset products. Not only does she act as an outside general counsel, navigating typical emerging company issues, but she also assists these companies with the countless regulatory regimes that can apply to digital assets.
“I understand the products at a deep level and, given my in-house experience, am able to guide clients in a compliant and, hopefully, commercially successful manner.”
Often liaising with government agency staff on behalf of clients, frequently for the purpose of educating regulators regarding FinTech products and services, Kari hopes to advance the FinTech industry as a whole. Currently, she is focused on tackling the expansion of the Perkins Coie’s New York office and increasing their traditional financial services offerings. She is working towards the firm’s goal of cultivating a practice that will best support the technology advancements of traditional players, while also launching sophisticated FinTech start-ups.
Kari started her career at the government as an intern, and shortly after was hired at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as International Counsel for the Division of Enforcement. In this role, Kari assisted with cross-border investigations and focused on international policy matters, such as anti-money laundering and technology innovations. She left to go into private practice where she focused on innovative commodity and derivative products, including energy and environmental commodities and weather derivatives. She was lured in-house as General Counsel for a period of time, first at an environmental futures exchange, Green Exchange (GreenX), and then at LedgerX, a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange and clearinghouse. Eventually, Kari made her way back into private practice at Perkins Coie, where she represents exchanges, brokers, traders, FinTech platforms, and vendors in the digital, financial, and environmental asset industries.
When asked about challenges she’s overcome in her career, Kari reflects on when she had high hopes for her first in-house venture, GreenX.
“It was an amazing team with an incredible Board and investors, and I strongly believed in its mission. Sadly, the environmental markets, which previously enjoyed bipartisan support, suddenly became a polarized hot potato, and there were some other negative impact events that limited the growth potential of the exchange. It was subsequently acquired by CME Group.”
Kari noted that she learned a tremendous amount from this experience, and was able to then analyze what other new areas were interesting and growing. This eventually led her to enter the cryptocurrency and blockchain space with a brand-new exchange.
Thankfully, Kari has had many mentors to help her throughout her career and to overcome challenges like these. One of the most influential was Kari’s practice group leader at her first law firm, where she worked for 10 years and was promoted from associate to partner. Kari recalled a time in her early days with the firm, when she was put on a project for a client that had acquired a portfolio of U.S. EPA emission allowance transactions who wanted to develop standard trading documents.
“It was very early days in the environmental markets; I found the work fascinating and enjoyed creating a market solution for environmental issues. He encouraged me to learn all I could, and then to start writing and speaking about the products, leading to me becoming the foremost leader in environmental markets trading at the time, representing the main industry group in developing emissions trading documentation. Eventually, I was recruited as General Counsel for GreenX, which ultimately led me to see the similarities to cryptocurrencies, both being recently created digital assets that may not fit traditional regulatory molds.”
Kari also takes feminist inspiration from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which she is currently rewatching.
“I love watching Buffy be unapologetic and trusting her own judgment over numerous naysayers, she is a delightful inspiration for me.”
7:00 am: Wake up.
7:10 am: I make coffee, greet the kids, get breakfast. My amazing husband has already made sure the kids are awake and not killing each other - he has also made me breakfast and coffee.
7:30 am: Check the news, drink coffee, get myself somewhat presentable for the day (it is work from home after all).
8:30 am: Scroll through email - I immediately manage any fires that need to be put out, think about the plan for the day: “Do I need to shower now or later?” “Do I need pants?”
9:00 am: Get more coffee; put out fires.
9:30 am: The back-to-back calls begin - first it’s a call with a client.
10:00 am: Call with regulator about client matter.
10:30 am: Call with client.
11:00 am: Call with Marketing to discuss a great idea on a thought leadership piece.
11:30 am: Call with a lawyer colleague to discuss a client issue and provide advice/be a sounding board.
12:00 am: Call with regulator.
12:30 pm: Husband brings me lunch; I check in on the kids - yep still alive!
1:00 pm: Call with client.
1:30 pm: Call with a pro bono theater client to prepare for an upcoming Board of Directors meeting.
2:30 to 4:30 pm: Review and revise an agreement; send to client.
4:30 pm: I attend a virtual firm Diversity & Inclusion Committee meeting.
5:30 to 6:30 pm: Call with a client.
6:30 pm: Attend to lawyer admin (time, bills, etc.).
7:00 pm: Downstairs for dinner made again by my husband - we have chicken fajitas, a family favorite.
7:30 to 9:00 pm: Bedtime routine, read to kids, get my snuggles.
9:00 to 10:00 pm: Zoom call with Women in Crypto friends.
10:00 to 11:30 pm: Watch shows (Schitt's Creek right now) or play a game with my husband.
11:30 pm: Wash up and bedtime.
6:00 pm: I sign off work a little early to enjoy making dinner with the family.
7:00 pm: We eat dinner together.
8:00 pm: One of my kids shows us the play he is working on for school while I enjoy an old fashioned made by my husband.
8:30 pm: Solid family time, we sit around with my mom and enjoy each other’s company.
9:30 pm: Help get the kids ready for bed; enjoy a glass of wine.
10:00 pm: Log on to the work computer - little emergency.
10:30 pm: Sit by the fire with hubby and enjoy some wine.
11:00 pm: Off to bed, excited for the weekend.
8:00 am: Get up; make breakfast and coffee.
8:30 am: Get ready; help get the house ready and organized enough that it doesn’t stress me out.
9:00 am: Get the kids ready; head to the NY Botanical Gardens to wander around and let the kids really run, with a picnic lunch my husband packed for us.
10:00 am to 12:00 pm: Hike around NYBG on one of the last warm days left this Fall. See the leaves changing and enjoy all the belly laughs.
12:00 pm: We stop and have lunch in our favorite spot.
1:00 to 3:00 pm: Head over to the Kids Adventure Garden for some fun and maybe learn something, buy some plants on the way out.
3:00 to 5:00 pm: Stop off and meet with some friends for an outdoor visit.
5:00 pm: Virtual cooking class with my oldest, segue to making dinner as a family.
6:30 to 9 pm: Family time, games, and a movie.
Reach out to Kari on LinkedIn.