After Walter Scott was fatally shot last year by a South Carolina police officer, lawyer Justin Bamberg stood with Scott’s family to demand justice. He did the same after an officer in Louisiana shot and killed Alton Sterling this summer. Last month in Charlotte, N.C., Bamberg was alongside the family of Keith Lamont Scott, another African American man who died at the hands of a police officer, the Los Angeles Times reports. As high-profile police shootings have become central to a national debate over race and law enforcement, Bamberg has emerged as a rising star among lawyers who bill themselves as both civil rights fighters and tort attorneys who can win millions of dollars in wrongful-death payouts.
These attorneys employ sophisticated media strategies as they battle on the national stage with police while they become coaches and confidants for families behind closed doors. They bond over drinks at legal conferences, recommend clients to one another, and borrow tactics from each other’s playbooks. Bamberg works for a law firm with a caseload far more mundane than what lands him on TV. Between days-long stints in Charlotte last month, he was in his Orangeburg, S.C., office handling depositions over a car accident injury case. University of Pittsburgh law Prof. David Harris, whose research focuses on police, said that kind of workload reflects a growing pattern — personal injury attorneys gravitating toward police shootings. “You can learn civil rights law to help you, but you have to be a skilled trial lawyer to be the person who can represent these cases and bring them to trial,” he said.