As a partner at the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and co-head of the firm's appellate and constitutional law practice group, Theodore Boutrous doesn't have a lot of spare time.
Except—amid his work for companies from Wal-Mart to the New York Times and his challenge of California’s prohibition on same-sex marriage—for Twitter.
Twitter became part of the First Amendment attorney’s media diet in late January when @BoutrousTed was launched. Today, he's got more than 500 followers while he follows 783 other accounts. His stream includes everything from his take on the latest First Amendment debate raging across the Twittersphere to pics of his partner Ted Olson and of attorney David Boies on their way to the Supreme Court to argue the Proposition 8 case in March. But for this self-proclaimed news junkie, the "avalanche of personally tailored news coming in all the time” keeps him on his toes and ahead of the news curve. Boutrous talked with Bloomberg Law's Dimitra Kessenides the old fashioned way: by telephone.
So, Ted, what made you sign on to Twitter?
It’s such a powerful tool. I don't think there's a recognition yet in the legal community of just how powerful it is--this isn't some passing toy or some frivolous activity. This is a major dominant source of information sharing.
What’s demonstrated Twitter’s power to you?
A couple of things. One was following the people I follow for their writing and their comedy. All of a sudden, it was this wave of information and discussion and communication that I had at my fingertips--it was a shocking revelation that I'd been missing out on all that. It takes the exchange of information about what's happening in the world to a whole new level.
Did you take to it quickly or did it take some time?
It was instantaneous in how easy it is to use, to find pieces and articles I wouldn't have known about.
What about hashtags –yes or no?
I like them. I almost put one in an e-mail today. They serve a valuable purpose, it’s a way to truncate what you have to say and save the characters and words.
Speaking of character limitations, you’re a lawyer -- how has that worked for you?
It’s amazing, but when you're forced to keep things short, you can do it. It’s like Haiku.
What do your partners say about all this, and your clients?
People are very interested and very supportive. They see that you're cutting yourself off from the world if you don't engage in this. Instead of emails around bulletins to our clients, I’m getting real information to my clients in real time. I have tweeted about some client matters – I’ve made sure that's authorized. Any time I'm talking on the record about a case, I’m acting completely consistent with my clients’ interests.
What about the First Amendment implications of this type of activity, any thoughts on this?
I’ve spent a lot of my career looking at the First Amendment close up. Now with this gushing of information, it's serious, real-time analysis, and highly valuable so we need to make sure that First Amendment protections apply and we need to make sure that this all goes forward. It's another reason I find it so fascinating. It’s great to see debates about these very issues playing out on there.
You’ve mentioned that you find it addictive, how so?
It taps into my inner media critic and it touches on so many of my interests - one minute there’s politics, then Joyce Carol Oates. The comedians are on there , like Albert Brooks and Sarah Silverman. You see this whole world that's communicating and talking about every topic under the sun. I would love to be Dave Weigel or Ana Marie Cox for a day and talk about all the things they talk about, to express myself without reservation for one day.
Dimitra Kessenides is an editor and blogger with the multimedia team at Bloomberg Law.