Nelson Canter

Nelson Canter, who 14 years ago walked away from his post as an office managing partner at Clausen Miller to start his own firm, is now taking that practice to McLaughlin & Stern.

In October, the former town justice from the Westchester County municipality of Harrison, New York, will leave his solo practice behind for the ranks of McLaughlin & Stern. Canter will start and lead the New York-based regional firm’s insurance subrogation practice.

“I think it’ll project me into a stratosphere where I want to practice [with] bigger cases,” Canter said of his future move this fall. “And I hope to have a lot of fun in the process.”

Canter began his legal career 30 years ago as an assistant district attorney in Westchester County. In 1998, he joined Clausen Miller, where he helped open an office in White Plains, New York, for the Chicago-based insurance defense firm.

But after the death in late 2003 of Clausen Miller managing partner and mentor Thomas Skeffington, Canter decided to set out on his own, forming the White Plains-based Canter Law Firm in 2004. The litigation boutique focuses on commercial litigation and insurance subrogation.

“I needed a fresh beginning at that time because I was really distraught by [Skeffington’s death at 51],” said Canter, who has occasionally written for the New York Law Journal.

Canter, a Republican, was elected to a four-year term as town justice for Harrison in 2012. In early 2016, he was appointed as a part-time deputy attorney for the town, an affluent suburb of Manhattan.

“[I] enjoyed being on my own and having full autonomy was so important to me,” Canter said of his time as managing partner of his own firm.

Over time, however, Canter said the administrative tasks of managing and operating his own firm detracted from his ability to practice law and focus on his clients.

“When you go out on your own, all of those kind of tend to consume you,” he said about overseeing operations like accounting, hiring and staffing, human resources, information technology and marketing. “Before you know it you’re so busy [and] the snowball starts going down the hill.”

In joining McLaughlin & Stern, which scored a win last week in a fight with a former novelist client, Canter is looking forward to relinquishing some of those responsibilities and taking advantage of the firm’s larger platform, including learning from many of its senior attorneys.

“Being on your own can sometimes be a little lonely,” said Canter, who worked with one other lawyer, Roberta Alagna, at his own shop. “You’re going through stuff together—you’re going through the good times and the bad together and you have people to bounce ideas off of,” he added about the potential benefits of working at a larger firm.

Canter is looking forward to collaborating with McLaughlin & Stern’s 97 lawyers in New York, Long Island, Florida and Connecticut on matters in and around the insurance space. The firm has been acquisitive in recent years, picking up New York-based admiralty and maritime shop Nourse & Bowles in 2013 and late last year absorbed Ackerman, Levine, Cullen, Brickman & Limmer in Great Neck, New York.

“We’re thrilled that [Canter’s] joining us,” said McLaughlin & Stern managing partner Geoffrey Handler, adding that the hire will expand his firm’s list of specialties into heavy weight subrogation matters, something that it does not currently offer.

Canter, however, acknowledges that returning to a larger firm environment from solo practice is not without some uncertainty.

“Going from a general down to a lieutenant or a captain is not necessarily a fun thing,” said Canter, who is still eager for the adjustment to occur. “I’m going in as an equity partner so there’s a lot of pressure. I’ll need to produce, and hoping I can and will.”