Blair Berk is concerned someone will die. Berk has emerged as one of the entertainment industry’s top criminal defense lawyers, aggressively working behind the scenes for such clients as Mel Gibson — who hired the Harvard Law grad after his DUI arrest — as well as perpetual tabloid queens Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.
Celebs have looked to Berk to solve their legal troubles or help organize criminal cases, such as for Reese Witherspoon, whom Berk helped file charges against overly aggressive photographers who were pursuing the actress. And it was Berk’s work helping prosecutors go after reckless paparazzi that inspired the change this year in California law that sets stiff penalties for shutterbugs who commit crimes or assault celebs while taking photos.
“The desperation to fill up tabloids and magazines with photographs has created a real public safety issue, where citizens are being run off the road or pushed down, in pursuit of the money shot,” Berk says. “As a result, there is going to be a death someday.”
Berk’s Southern drawl belies her fierceness, and prosecutors salute her take-no-prisoners courtroom style. “She is focused and dedicated,” says deputy district attorney James Garrison. “I know she has many clients, but when she is dealing with what she has, it seems like that’s her only client.”
Unlike many of her legal brethren who are known for their pithy talkshow sound bites, Berk prefers to toil quietly under the radar, getting results instead of headlines. “The whole idea of the media spectacle surrounding a (celebrity’s) case is contrary to everything I believe as a defense lawyer,” says the usually publicity-averse Berk. “Being a persuasive advocate, out of the glare of the media, will always better serve the client.”
Vocation: “A navigator who specializes in typhoons and tsunamis.”
Recent breakthrough: “Bringing much-needed public and police attention to the stalkerazzi’s increasingly dangerous pursuit of celebrities and their children, and attempting to bring change before someone is fatally injured.”
Role model: “My father, Steven Bernholz, is a terrific Southern lawyer and has been an extraordinary role model. ”
Career mantra: “Being a passionate and persuasive advocate requires as much sugar as it does salt.”
What’s next: “To teach our daughter how to fish.”