The firm was founded in 1854 by Henry Scudder and James C. Carter. The firm remained small well into the 1900s. It long represented American Tobacco and Standard Oil in early antitrust cases. The firm once represented the now-defunct brokerage house Dupont Glore Forgan as well as American Express, which in the 1970s changed legal counsel in favor of Winthrop Stimson, the predecessor firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
The firm has targeted mid-market clients, especially foreign companies from a variety of countries in Europe and Israel looking to raise capital in the United States through IPOs, private placements and other forms of capital markets transactions. Carter Ledyard has had particular success with representing Israeli high-tech companies, first assisting them obtain financing and then in acquisitions as they expand and diversify.