Lawyer to the stars

When Todd Eagan was 9 years old his family was returning from a trip to Maine and his parents decided to play a little game with him to see how long he could continuously speak to them.

It was a 13-hour car ride, and Todd’s parents, Dr. Thomas and Deborah Eagan, are still amazed by the results.

“He talked the whole way back, this must have meant something,” Thomas Eagan said. “My wife and I kept looking at each other like – how much longer is he going to continue to talk and just talk about things -and he did it for the entire trip. We still laugh about that.”

Today, Todd Eagan speaks on behalf of some of the most famous people in the entertainment industry, and he can charge by the hour. In October, Todd was voted partner at the law firm of Lavely & Singer in Los Angeles, one of the top entertainment litigation firms in the U.S. Todd handles entertainment and business litigation matters for the firm.

He’s come a long way since graduating Gloversville High School in 1992, Middlebury College in 1996 and Pepperdine University School of Law in 1999.

Todd said he was drawn to the law because he wanted to be an advocate for other people and because he likes public speaking.

“I think I?knew from the beginning that I would become an attorney,” Todd said.

Thomas Eagan said he saw the potential for his son to do well as a lawyer when he noticed how strong his writing skills were in high school.

“He was such an organized writer and thinker, which are traits that go together I think, and that talent that I?observed in him in high school, he probably doesn’t even know I saw this, but I?really think it blossomed with his writing skills in college,” Thomas Eagan said.

Thomas Eagan said Todd met a classmate at Middlebury who told him about Pepperdine Law School, which is located in Los Angeles, and how it was a great training ground for lawyers interested in entertainment law.

Todd said he was focused on his future career.

“I was very interested in being someone who represented entertainers and working in entertainment law as a speciality,” he said. “I was given a scholarship to attend Pepperdine University Law, that combined with the weather made it a pretty easy decision.”

Some of Todd’s notable recent clients include actors John Travolta, Nicolas Cage and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as well as his recent handling of a publicized lawsuit between the University of Texas and actor Ryan O’Neal.

The O’Neal case involved one of two Andy Warhol portraits of Farrah Fawcett, O’Neal’s longtime lover.

From Thanksgiving into the middle of December, O’Neal and Todd Eagan spent four weeks in court fighting a lawsuit from the University of Texas which sought possession of the portrait, arguing that Fawcett bequeathed both Warhol portraits to the school upon her death. The school already had possesion of one of them.

O’Neal fought back and testified the portrait was his closest remaining connection to Fawcett, who died in 2009. Within 90 minutes of reviewing O’Neal’s testimony, the panel returned a 9-3 verdict in favor of O’Neal. The actor wasn’t present for the jury’s decision, but his sons Patrick and Redmond O’Neal clasped hands and hugged after hearing the result.

Todd Eagan said the case came down to the jury believing O’Neal’s witnesses more than the witnesses of the University of Texas.

The case featured testimony from several of Fawcett’s close friends, who said the actress told them one of the portraits belonged to O’Neal. Two witnesses who were disclosed late in the trial – Fawcett’s chiropractor and a former nurse’s assistant – also backed O’Neal’s claims.

The artwork is valuable, with experts estimating it is worth between $800,000 and $12 million. Ryan O’Neal, however, told jurors he had no intention of selling it and wanted to pass it down to his only son with Fawcett, Redmond.

Todd said it’s an injustice that O’Neal was forced to rack up more than $1 million in legal fees defending ownership of what the jury ultimately decided was his own property.

“It’s not fair and it’s not right and we’re exploring all of our options to pursue any fees that may be available,” Todd said, alluding to the possibility O’Neal might take legal action against the University of Texas to help pay for his defense of the lawsuit.

Todd said although he enjoys his work as an attorney, the workload has been demanding.

“I think whatever profession you go into you have a perception of what it will be like, whether it’s direct evidence from people in your family or what you perceive through the media for example, but then once you’re in it’s not really what you expected,” he said. “For me, growing up in a family that was a medical family, I?had a sort of perception of law, but my actual experience has been different. My experience has been that it’s much more engaging and demanding than I thought it would be. But it’s very rewarding, although exhausting at times.”?

The Associated Press contributed to this article.