By Emily J. Weitz
Kelly M. Canavan, who is heading up a new law office in Bridgehampton, is deeply connected to the community on the East End. A Sag Harbor resident, she has roots that go back to her great-great-great grandfather, who was a whaling captain and had a house on Madison Street. Perhaps that’s part of the reason she wanted to be in charge of a new satellite branch of Campolo, Middleton, and McCormick, a much larger law firm that serves clients across the country from its headquarters in Ronkonkoma. The satellite office is in Bridgehampton, just above Almond restaurant at One Ocean Road, and it focuses on the legal needs of East End clientele.
Ms. Canavan wanted to be an attorney since she was a young woman. Her father, who was raised by a single mother, always instilled in her the importance of being independent.
“He’d say, ‘”Don’t be the secretary; be the lawyer,’” recalled Ms. Canavan. “He believed no one should be beholden to a partner.”
So Ms. Canavan set her sights on law school. But she became pregnant with her first child and had to defer for two years. She didn’t let that derail her plans, though. In her years at Hofstra, she brought her daughter to school with her and dropped her off at the day care center on campus.
“My classmates would talk about parties they were going to,” she recalled, “but I had to go home. I was working two jobs, going to law school, and being a mom.”
Ms. Canavan worked for several law firms, including Farrell Fritz in Water Mill, before landing with Campolo, Middleton, and McCormick. But she found this team to be so dynamic and exciting, she was eager to take part in their growth as they extended their services to the East End. Of course, the firm always had a lot of business on the East End, but the move to open an office in Bridgehampton allows them to serve this community better, said Ms. Canavan.
The firm offers the spectrum of basic law services, but what’s different about them is they have the small-town office feel with the depth of a larger firm.
“The firm does a lot of litigation, and there’s a void for that out here,” said Ms. Canavan. “There are a lot of sole practitioners who can’t handle these litigation matters and run their practice at the same time.”
She knows, because she was a sole practitioner focusing on real estate law for 10 years. She worked from her home while her kids went to school in Sag Harbor. But there are countless details to deal with in law, and a sole practitioner is on her own.
“To effectively represent a client,” said Ms. Canavan, “you have to research, file motions, do paperwork. A sole practitioner has to focus all her attention on that matter, and other aspects fall by the wayside. We have the manpower to get it done efficiently. We work as a team.”
At the office in Bridgehampton, there are two attorneys full-time: Ms. Canavan and Hayley Gregor. Both attorneys were at the firm in Ronkonkoma, and both are local women. Ms. Gregor lives in Bridgehampton. But in addition, they have support staff. When there’s a case that needs extra attention, or when there are too many details to deal with on their own, staff from Ronkonkoma can easily come out and assist.
Ms. Canavan joined Campolo, Middleton, and McCormick over the summer with the full intention of taking charge of the Bridgehampton office. She commuted to Ronkonkoma at first, knowing that she would soon be working locally. That was important to her.
“That was why I came on,” said Ms. Canavan. “I never felt I’d be able to truly serve my clients driving to Ronkonkoma.”
She believes that living in the community you serve is important.
“It’s all about the relationships you make,” she said.
But she also values the expertise of her co-workers, and working for a larger firm allows her to tap into that.
“There’s something about having other attorneys to bounce ideas off of,” she said. “Nobody can do everything. You have to know when you can reach out to someone who specializes in something, because that’s how you better serve your clients.”
Photo by Michael Heller