In December 2016, the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism at South Carolina Law hosted a national symposium on veteran access to justice. Dean Rob Wilcox heard about the dire need of veterans across the country, and he knew there had to be a way that the law school could help out on a local level. Fast forward 18 months and the new veterans legal clinic is set to open its doors, thanks in part to funding from the South Carolina Bar Foundation and the Boeing Company. U.S. Army Veteran and 2005 alumnus Clyde “Bennett” Gore Jr. was hired in February 2018 to lead the new clinic, which begins taking clients on July 2.
Tell us about your military career. When did you join, and why did you feel the call?
I officially joined the Army when I was a sophomore at Wofford College back in 1999, after taking several military science classes my freshman year. However, 9/11 occurred during my senior year, and it only galvanized me in my decision to join the military. I wanted to be able to contribute. Both my grandfathers served during World War II. Additionally, my father and uncle had both served during the Vietnam era.
After graduation, I was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant. I was accepted into the Educational Delay program, which allowed me to pursue a law degree and become an officer in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
I entered active duty as a JAG officer in January 2006. I stayed on active duty through August 2014 and was assigned to a wide variety of places including Fort Bliss, Texas; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; and Fort Polk, Louisiana (my wife’s personal favorite). I also was deployed to Iraq for one year (July 2010 – July 2011).
Are you still active in the military?
I am still in the military and enjoying the opportunity to serve our state. When I left active duty, I joined the South Carolina Army National Guard and was assigned as the Command Judge Advocate for 59th Troop Command. In layman’s terms, I am the lead attorney for 59th Troop Command. Our legal team there consists of two other attorneys and four paralegals. We handle all legal issues for the command in that unit, which includes all criminal law, administrative law, ethics and operational law issues that arise.
Tell us about the new Legal Veterans Clinic.
There is an ever-increasing need for such clinics due to continued ongoing global conflicts where our service members are deployed to. When they return home, they have very unique legal issues related to their service.
Through our efforts we hope to stabilize veterans and the communities they live in by resolving their legal issues, so they can continue to have positive impacts on their communities. Bottom line: These individuals volunteered to serve our nation and through their service, have come home with unique issues. They deserve our assistance with resolving those unique issues.
What types of cases will the clinic handle?
We are going to be taking cases that revolve around issues affecting their ability to obtain and retain employment. We anticipate they will involve housing issues and homelessness; debt and consumer protection issues; and domestic issues that affect both the client and others in the home.
How do veterans start the process of seeing if their legal problem is one that can be solved by the clinic?
They can start by calling 803-777-2278 and speaking with someone from our Veterans Legal Clinic team. We will take some basic information and run them through our screening process, after which we will be able to identify if we can represent them or not.
Can other South Carolina lawyers get involved with the clinic?
Yes! We are going to be hiring private practice attorneys to act as adjunct professors in the clinic. While we’ll start taking clients over the summer, we will begin teaching the clinic in the fall. It will be offered as a 6-hour clinical course in both the fall and spring semesters. Any lawyers who may be interested in helping should be on the lookout for more information.
What has been the most challenging part of setting up the clinic?
I would say the most challenging part of the clinic, and the most fun (in my opinion) has been performing the community outreach and making sure the Veterans know that we are here and that they have the information needed to access our resources. That, truly is what it is about — getting out in the community and engaging with these Veterans on a one-on-one basis.
When you’re not busy getting the clinic set up, how do you like to relax and unwind?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and our daughter. In particular, one our favorite rituals is eating breakfast at Lizard’s Thicket on Saturday mornings. Other than that, I am an avid sports fan, enjoy reading (history and politics), fishing, and being an active member of our church, Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia, SC.