Born in Savannah, Ga., and raised in Columbia, S.C., Bennett Schiller spent summers growing up on Tybee Island. He longed to return to the Lowcountry during his 19 years of building a successful trial law practice in Rock Hill, S.C. A missed turn on the highway while heading home from Hilton Head Island caused Bennett and his wife, Karoline, to accidentally “discover” and fall in love with Beaufort.
“We decided that since we were off course and had heard so many wonderful things about Beaufort, we would go downtown for lunch,” Bennett said. “We walked around for hours and found ourselves not wanting to leave. In fact, we
ran into a friend from law school who was practicing here and jokingly told him I was moving here as soon as I could. We came down for several more visits and with each visit it became more and more difficult to return home. It took several years to open a branch of my practice in Beaufort, but once it was, in less than six months we knew this was home and bought a house in Coosaw Point.”
He continued to praise Beaufort: “Not only is it the most beautiful place on the planet, the people are special. There is an attitude of acceptance that you do not find in many places. It seems everyone here appreciates life on a much deeper level. We find that the things people brag about here are how much time they spend with their families, the number of fish they caught, how many deer they shot with their kid and how beautiful their drive to work seemed. They don’t talk about how much stuff they own or how fancy their car might be. People here are quick to help others and enjoy the meaningful things in life. Couple that with spectacular scenery which helps to keep people outside enjoying nature, that is what our family loves most about Beaufort.”
Bennett said, “I was born with the pluff mud smell in my nostrils and wanted my kids to get that same appreciation for all that is Lowcountry where I grew up running around with my cousins on Tybee Island.”
The Schillers have four children: Jason, 15; Kristie, 14; Melanie, 11; and Matthew, 11.
Bennett is a 1990 graduate of The Citadel, then he attended the University of South Carolina School of Law. He met his wife while working for the McNair Law Firm prior to law school and the two have been together for 22 years. About his wife he says with a smile, “Karoline is a stay-at-home mom, nurse, tutor, taxi driver and therapist for our four children.”
About his chosen profession, Bennett says, “While in law school, I thought saving the world involved political action. When I began my first clerking job with a small plaintiff’s firm in Columbia, I was moved by the enormous impact those lawyers had on the lives of the people they served. It was amazing to see the hope offered by these lawyers and the gratitude their clients expressed for the work that their lawyers had done for them. I was hooked. I left law school with that same goal in mind. Change the world one client at a time. Make their life better and the world would be better. Of course, it is not always easy to do that but with every new day comes new opportunities to do so. I saw early on what a privilege it is to be an attorney and have the opportunity to help fix things for others and to help solve their problems.”
Bennett is currently a member of Leadership Beaufort Class of 2014, and he also serves on the board of directors for the YMCA of Beaufort County. “I love the Y and all that it stands for. I have served on other Y boards and chose to do so because the Y makes a difference in the lives of so many children. They offer opportunity where opportunity may not exist for some of the kids. It teaches the importance of good health, respect for others, self-discipline and spiritual development.”
He feels passionate about his hobby: Riding Harley Davidson motorcycles. “Since my twelfth birthday I have been riding motorcycles,” said Bennett. “I love two wheels far more than four. Riding a motorcycle is both intoxicating and exhilarating. I own a 2003 Harley Davidson Softail Deuce and ride every chance I get. I would say that folks that ride are special people. Some of them may look tough or mean but most are kind and generous and would do anything for you. There is a special bond between riders. When you pass one on the road there is always an extension of the hand down by your side acknowledging the other usually with the two finger peace sign. To me, that’s cool.”
At the Schiller & Hamilton Law Firm, Bennett’s partner Joel Hamilton runs the day to day operations in the Rock Hill office. Bennett is the managing partner and they have five attorneys and seven full time support personnel in three locations that serve the Upstate of South Carolina as well as the Lowcountry.
Bennett said of the firm, “We are trial attorneys who represent individuals when bad things happen. Often that involves injuries both due to motor vehicle accidents as well as on the job injuries. We handle family court matters and provide criminal defense. We help those seeking to obtain Social Security benefits and veteran’s benefits. Also, we represent folks dealing with real estate disputes, construction defects, employment issues and contract disputes.”
He said the most important thing he wants people to know about his practice is that his goal is to help others. “We realize that there is a tendency, especially in a military community, to want to try and handle things on your own,” Bennett said. “Our consultations are always free and we do not want folks to have to go it alone … That is why we like to say at Schiller & Hamilton, ‘we’ve got your back!’ ”
Beaufort is fortunate that a slight wrong turn brought a great family to settle in our little piece of heaven.