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Twitter Names Its First General CounselTwitter has hired a high-profile Google lawyer as its first general counsel. Alexander Macgillivray, deputy GC for products and IP at Google, will take the legal reins at the popular San Francisco-based micro-blogging site, according to people familiar with the hire. On Sunday, the Google lawyer appropriately told the world via his Twitter account that he was joining Twitter, although he did not indicate in what role.
The Recorder2009-07-14 12:00:00 AM
Twitter has hired a high-profile Google lawyer as its first general counsel.
Alexander Macgillivray, deputy GC for products and IP at Google, will take the legal reins at the popular San Francisco-based micro-blogging site, according to people familiar with the hire.
Twitter has not announced the hire, and while Macgillivray has tweeted that he's joining Twitter, he did not indicate in what role. The New York Times first reported that he'd be GC on Friday evening.
"You can't tell what issues [Twitter's] going to face," said David Kramer, a litigator with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who has worked with Macgillivray. "With Alex you've gotten someone who's navigated uncharted territory before -- I can't imagine a better choice."
Macgillivray helped Google fend off legal challenges to its ambitious and controversial book scanning efforts. The company settled a lawsuit stemming from the project with authors and publishers, but the agreement is now being probed by antitrust regulators in the Department of Justice.
In a Saturday blog post, Macgillivray wrote that "working in Google Legal has been a dream job."
On Sunday, the Google lawyer appropriately told the world via his Twitter account that he was "Glad to be joining @ev and all the other great folks at Twitter, sad to be leaving so many good friends at Google."
Macgillivray did not return a voicemail left at his Google office on Monday afternoon.
A former Wilson Sonsini associate, Macgillivray joined Google as an IP lawyer in 2003. His role was expanded to product counsel, and he handled all legal issues resulting from the company's new products, like Google book search.
"He has a very deep technical base," Kramer said. "He came of age in the practice of law during the Internet era and brings an understanding of Internet legal issues to the table that is pretty much unrivaled."
So far Twitter hasn't had that many legal challenges.
As Ian Ballon, an expert on Internet law at Greenberg Traurig puts it, "The 140-character limit narrows the scope of legal liability proportionately."
Twitter did briefly face a lawsuit from St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa, who was upset over a fake profile on the site. But La Russa dropped the suit without winning a settlement.
Until now, Twitter has relied on Fenwick & West for most of its legal work.
Michael Kwun, a lawyer at Keker & Van Nest who worked with Macgillivray at Google, said he's got a good business sense, something needed at an Internet startup.
"He has great business acumen -- he has a sense of what the business issues are as well as the legal ones," Kwun said. "He's always been someone who the product managers and the engineers could go to."