They are tapping into a sophisticated network of legal experts established over the past decade in the wake of high-profile mass demonstrations, including protests at the Republican National Convention in 2004 and the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011. The network includes seasoned lawyers who routinely handle cases stemming from protests and civil disobedience, and who say they have learned from each protest.

“Occupy Wall Street is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Wylie Stecklow, a New York-based lawyer. Stecklow’s firm, Wylie Law, represented 200 people who were arrested during the Occupy protests in New York.

He learned valuable lessons from the Occupy and RNC protests. For example, how best to centrally fund bail payouts and how to work together to represent large numbers of people.

Some of the volunteers deployed in Ferguson have acted as legal observers, who are tasked with documenting each arrest that is made at a protest and serving afterward as a witness to the events leading to charges.