‘I intend on continuing to practice law and seeing this case through to conclusion,’ the adult-film actress’ attorney told Moneyish. ‘That is my singular focus right now. Period.’
The forecast looks sunny for Stormy Daniels’ telegenic attorney.
Michael Avenatti, the hard-charging lawyer and pro race car driver representing adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford in her lawsuit against President Trump, has made himself a near-permanent fixture on TV news, even stopping by Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” last week to unveil a new piece of evidence. On Twitter, meanwhile, he’s needled the President’s men with the hashtag “#basta” (Italian for “enough”) while dangling chum for reporters — most recently a “Project Sunlight” report tying a Russian oligarch-linked firm to Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s shell company.
None of this should come as a shock: The Newport Beach, Calif., attorney’s own website, after all, states that he “often works closely with the press and media in connection with his legal practice — an area in which most lawyers falter and under-utilize.” “Here, the constant media/PR pressure has forced Trump, Cohen, et al. to make a series of huge errors and to make damaging admissions helpful to our case,” Avenatti tweeted Sunday. “This was not by accident. And we’re not changing.”
The wall-to-wall exposure has even helped in fact-finding, he told Anderson Cooper on Tuesday in response to criticism of his media strategy. “Here’s the bottom line, Anderson: It’s working. It’s working in spades,” he said. “Because we’re so out front on this, people send us information; people want to help our cause.”
While Avenatti is ubiquitous to an extent because of his client, “he’s also ubiquitous because he’s great on TV,” David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, told Moneyish. “He’s smart … he’s willing to do bare-knuckle combat, if that’s what the circumstances require. Producers are obviously keen to book him for all of those reasons,” he said. “I’m not aware that he’s been embarrassing himself on television, either … Generally, he’s acquitted himself extremely well in that form.”
But Avenatti’s smooth TV chops and heightened visibility also present prospects beyond the courtroom. Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor recently held talks with the lawyer, anonymous sources told NBC News, while United Talent Agency allegedly reached out as well. Avenatti himself told Vanity Fair this month he’d been “approached by a number of networks” about the possibility of hosting his own show after the case wrapped; he called the interest “flattering,” but insisted he remained focused on the case.
Avenatti even entertained a possible political future after HBO’s Bill Maher raised the question last month. “As you know, there’s a small matter that I’m presently focused on,” he replied. “But we’ll see how that goes, and I’ll tell you what: If, at the end of that, you decide that makes sense for me, I’ll do it.”
Some lawyers — O.J. Simpson defense attorneys F. Lee Bailey, Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro, for example — have built their fame and national reputations while remaining practitioners of the law, Eric T. Kasper, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, told Moneyish in an email.
But other attorneys, like former HLN host Nancy Grace and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, have made the leap to careers in television, Kasper pointed out. Many politicians have also come from legal backgrounds, “as it is somewhat of a natural move to go from practicing law to making the law,” he said; “however, fewer attorneys are being elected today than has historically been the case, probably due in no small part to the public’s declining views on attorneys.”
It bears repeating that I appear on less than 1/3 of the shows that request me. Why is interest so high? Because the American people cannot get straight answers about the lies and cover-up, and more damaging facts come out on a daily basis regarding MC and DJT’s conduct. #basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 2, 2018
Avenatti’s “growing celebrity status,” Kasper said, does open the door to future media or political opportunities. “Avenatti is clearly smart, highly articulate, aggressive when he needs to be (and maybe when he doesn’t), and media-savvy,” added Birdsell. “He’ll have a number of options post-Stormy, though those may yet be shaped by further developments in that story that we can’t predict.”
When asked about speculation over his post-Daniels future, Avenatti drew attention back to the present. “I intend on continuing to practice law and seeing this case through to conclusion,” the attorney told Moneyish in an email. “That is my singular focus right now. Period.”
His current trajectory could prove successful enough. One “major question,” Birdsell suggested, is whether Avenatti wants to leverage his profile as a way to pursue “a larger and more lucrative clientele in areas that award the combination of legal talent and promotional skills,” or pivot toward media alone. The former approach, he said, would build in “more pathways to sustained success over time.”
“He could go back to a quieter career in law — that seems less likely at this stage — and he could go into media,” Birdsell said. “But this seems to be the sweet spot: Why marry yourself to commentary when you’re still able to get on television with the clients … while maintaining your career as an attorney and all the benefits that that brings?”
In that vein, Birdsell added, Avenatti might loosely follow in the footsteps of famed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and her longstanding “twinned media/law strategy” model. “Whether he will try to craft a similar niche … I just don’t know,” Birdsell said. “But you could imagine him doing that and making a reputation for being the go-to attorney, as Gloria Allred has, in whatever area of the law he chooses to concentrate.”
The elevated platform, public relations strategist Todd Ragusa said, “can be a double-edged sword.” “Once the spotlight’s on you, it’s going to see all of your flaws and weaknesses, as well,” he said. “So you need to be sure you’re ready for that.”
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