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  • Tom Lewis

Sumrell Sugg Brings Long History Of Practicing Law In New Bern And Craven County

Celebrating 75 years in business


Raymond Sumrell was fresh back from World War II, serving in the Army Air Corps and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, when he opened his law firm in the Elks Building in downtown New Bern in 1949.


Later, Sumrell was joined by Fred Carmichael and then Jim Sugg, both military veterans themselves (Sugg in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and Carmichael in the Army in Europe during the Cold War) and like Sumrell, grew up in Craven County.


The firm turns 75 this year and is still going strong. Scott Hart was a summer intern at the firm in 1991, joined the firm as an associate in the summer of 1992 and is now managing partner of Sumrell Sugg.


“When I came to work here, it was unusual for someone outside of town to move here as a first-year lawyer,” said Hart, who grew up “all over the world” in a military family. “That’s one of the things that has changed here – the lawyers have joined the firm who were not originally from the area. It’s people from outside the area choosing to move here.”


A big part of New Bern’s appeal is its people and their welcoming attitude, something Hart experienced as a young lawyer.


“New Bern is in an area that has a very collegial and very professional bar, “he said. “The other attorneys here are welcoming and generous with their time. They are willing to pitch in and help young lawyers out as they grow and develop.”


And then there’s just New Bern, the city.


“It’s a great place to live, because of the access to recreational activities like the waterways here and the beach nearby,” Hart said. “It’s close enough to the large cities like Raleigh, Wilmington, Greensboro and Greenville that we can get to those places if we need to, but without all of the traffic and crowds that those places bring. I think it provides a great balance.”


At Sumrell Sugg, Hart was put to work right away. “In a big firm, it’s not uncommon for young lawyers to get stuck in a library for the first three or four years, but that’s never been our practice here,” he said. “We always have sought to expose young lawyers to client interaction as early as we can, because it helps them grow.”


Hart chalks up much of Sumrell Sugg’s success over the years to the lawyers who have come through the doors.


“The firm has been fortunate to have lawyers who have committed to good client work and to a good firm culture over a long period of time,” he said. “We have 10 lawyers right now and we’ve stayed in that range, and that keeps us small enough that we’re able to know one another well personally but big enough that we’re able to handle very engaging and interesting client work.”


That work, which is focused in eastern North Carolina but exceeds across the state, includes business law civil litigation, employment law, estate planning, health care, local government, estate planning, real estate law and workers compensation.


Hart has seen a number of changes at Sumrell Sugg, particularly in the tech area. He started at a firm with no computers, voicemail, or email.


All of that – and more – has changed, but what has remained the same is Sumrell Sugg’s involvement in the New Bern area.


“We stay very active with the Chamber of Commerce, and we encourage our lawyers to be engaged with local nonprofit organizations,” Hart said. “We try to encourage our lawyers to stay active in our community, not only because it’s good for the community, but because it allows them to see what goes on in their hometowns and not just be focused on what goes on at the office.”


The firm’s lawyers are also involved in legal organizations, serving in leadership roles for the local and district bar association (Hart, for instance, is on the State Bar Council, which runs the North Carolina State Bar.)


As Sumrell Sugg turns 75 in 2024, Hart said the firm wants to celebrate its history. Both Sugg and Sumrell have died, but Fred Carmichael, who has retired, is 86.


“We think it’s important that people know that at the time they started there were maybe just a dozen or fewer lawyers in the county, and now there are well over 100,” Hart said. “Without them, we couldn’t have been the firm that we are, and we continue to grow.”


Hart is confident that there will be other milestone years for his firm.


“I guess every managing partner’s goal is to make sure you lay the groundwork for the future of the business, and I certainly hope to do that,” he said. “I think we’re in good hands with the young lawyers we have here.”

This article first appeared in the New Bern Area Chamber Of Commerce Insight Magazine | Spring 2024 issue

The information in this Article is provided solely for informative purposes and is not intended to be legal advice nor relied on for any legal purposes.

Sumrell Sugg, P.A. is a regional legal firm that provides clients with first-rate services in a cost-effective manner. Whether clients are individuals, corporations, or local governments and municipalities, our firm delivers on an undeviating promise of service. For more information, visit us at

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