Presently, Michael Avenatti may be the most high-profile lawyer in America. The 47-year-old seasoned litigator has made headlines in recent weeks thanks to his client, adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels.
Just days before the 2016 US election, a lawyer for President Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to Daniels to keep her silent about an affair she allegedly had with Trump in 2006.
Avenatti has since sued the president, on Daniels’ behalf, accusing Trump of invalidating a non-disclosure agreement. Avenatti says the violation allows Daniels to reveal her side of the story to the public, and on Sunday, she did just that in a blockbuster “60 Minutes” interview on CBS News.
As Daniels’ profile has risen, so has Avenatti’s. Here’s what you should know about him:
Avenatti graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. Three years later, he received his JD degree from George Washington University.
During college and law school, Avenatti worked for The Research Group, a campaign research firm founded by Rahm Emmanuel, former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and the current Democratic mayor of Chicago.
After graduating law school, Avenatti worked at O’Melveny & Myers, a high-powered Los Angeles law firm. Over the course of his legal career, he has contributed to several high-profile cases involving Paris Hilton, Jim Carrey, and members of the rock band The Eagles.
At O’Melveny & Myers, Avenatti worked with Dan Petrocelli, the attorney who represented the family that sued OJ Simpson for murder. Simpson was found not guilty in 1995.
In 2007, he formed his own firm called Eagan Avenatti, where he has settled and won lucrative cases against the NFL and medical manufacturers Kimberly-Clark and Halyard Health, among others.
In 2013, Avenatti bought Tully’s Coffee, a Seattle-based coffee franchise that had just gone bankrupt.
Earlier in March, as Avenatti gained prominence in the national media for his role in the Stormy Daniels case, a spokesman for Tully’s said he no longer owned the company, but still served as its general counsel. The company announced it was temporarily closing its stores due to a coffee shortage.
Avenatti is also an auto-racing fanatic. He has participated in numerous races around the US and in Europe. “Life is meant to be lived; there are no dress rehearsals,” he told GW Law School magazine in 2010.
One of Avenatti’s former law school professors witnessed his ambition up close. “He is an adrenaline junkie,” Jonathan Turley, who taught Avenatti at GW Law, told The Washington Post. “I think he needs that adrenaline rush. He lives his life aggressively. In both litigation and in life he shows a certain aggressive style.”
Those words have been proven true in recent weeks as Avenatti makes the rounds on cable news, giving interviews about Daniels’ case against Trump.
During an exchange on CNN, Avenatti excoriated Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney, repeatedly calling him a “thug.”
In another theatrical performance, Avenatti held up a picture of Cohen on live TV, accusing him of “dodging questions” by refusing to talk to the media.
Avenatti has been a thorn in Trump’s side for years. While working at Greene Broillet & Wheeler, a law firm in California, Avenatti helped sue Trump for allegedly stealing the idea of his hit reality TV show on NBC, “The Apprentice.”