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A Brief History of Carter Ledyard & Milburn

James C. Carter - Collection Harvard Club of New York City
James C. Carter
Collection Harvard Club of New York City

The law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn traces its origins to its founders, James C. Carter and Henry J. Scudder, who began practicing law together under the name "Scudder & Carter" in 1854.  Carter and Scudder continued their partnership for over three decades until Scudder passed away in 1886.  During that period, the firm had taken on an associate by the name of Lewis Cass Ledyard, who became a partner in 1881.  Following Scudder's death, the firm became "Carter & Ledyard."  Daniel G. Rollins, a retired New York County Surrogate’s Court Judge, joined the firm from 1881-1889, and the firm was briefly known as "Carter, Rollins & Ledyard" during his tenure.  After Rollins retired, the firm was once again “Carter & Ledyard” until 1904 when it welcomed already renowned attorney John G. Milburn as a partner and became "Carter, Ledyard & Milburn," which remains the firm’s name today.

The founding partners were distinguished attorneys with well-known clients who made valuable contributions to the profession and the City of New York.  James C. Carter argued three dozen cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and was a member of the legal team that successfully sued the politician William “Boss” Tweed for corruption and graft.  He was called “possibly the most famous lawyer in the country” and “perhaps the most respected appellate advocate in the nation” at the turn of the 20th century.  Lewis Cass Ledyard was personal counsel to J.P. Morgan and a founder and President of the New York Public Library, and John G. Milburn was a law clerk to Grover Cleveland and Supreme Court counsel for John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

For over one-and-a-half centuries, Carter Ledyard & Milburn has maintained its principal office on Wall Street in New York City, the sole exception being a brief period from 1929-1934 when the firm occupied a nearby space at 41 Broad Street.  Following that period, the firm moved to 2 Wall Street, where it has operated to this day.

Since 1904, when Carter Ledyard & Milburn had only five lawyers, the firm has steadily built its practice.  Today, the firm has about 100 lawyers spanning a broad range of practice areas, including many facets of litigation, corporate law, trusts & estates, real estate, intellectual property, tax law and non-profit/tax-exempt organizations.  A full list of the firm’s practice areas is available here.

In addition to its founding partners, Carter Ledyard & Milburn boasts many notable alumni, including: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd President of the United States), Edmund L. Baylies (a well-known New York lawyer and philanthropist), John Teele Pratt (a corporate attorney, philanthropist, financier and music impresario), Devereux Milburn (an accomplished attorney who won ground-breaking cases before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the rules for class action law suits and the contract clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as one of the best polo players America has produced), Grenville Clark (a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-author of the book “World Peace Through World Law”), William Harding Jackson (National Security Advisor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower), Frank Wisner (Head of the Office of Strategic Services operations in Southeastern Europe at the end of World War II and 2nd Deputy Director of Plans in charge of covert paramilitary and counterintelligence operations for the CIA under President Truman), Peter H. Dominick (U.S. Senator for the State of Colorado), Renato Beghe (U.S. Tax Court Judge, appointed by President George H.W. Bush), John M. Walker, Jr. (Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, appointed by President George H.W. Bush) and Margo K. Brodie (U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, appointed by President Barack Obama and the first Afro-Caribbean-born federal judge in the United States).

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