Lawyers, Law Students: Your Retweets Could Cost You a Job

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 23, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

By now we all know the social media basics. Don't post anything offensive online. Don't berate your professors, politicians, peers on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Don't skip work then tweet about how sweet the surfing is today, brah.

And now, here's another one: be careful what you retweet, for a single impolitic retweet could jeopardize your legal career.

Trump's "Extreme Vetting"

This lesson doesn't come from a law student who retweeted some Twitter bigot, or a judge who retweeted a party appearing before him. Instead, it comes from Sullivan & Cromwell's Brent McIntosh. A partner at Sullivan and co-head of its cybersecurity practice, McIntosh has a resume that most lawyers would kill for: federal clerkships, White House experience, clients ranging from Microsoft to the Chamber of Commerce. He's even got some death row pro bono experience under his belt.

So, when his name was floated for a Treasury Department position under President Trump, you'd think he'd be close to a sure thing, right? Not exactly.

And it wasn't a botched case or controversial college paper that tripped McIntosh up.

It was Twitter. Not even McIntosh's own Twitter, but a tweet he once retweeted. According to Bloomberg, McIntosh "got an especially tough vetting" over his Twitter feed.

The trouble with his Twitter account, now set to private, wasn't actual comments made by McIntosh, but news articles he had highlighted for his followers, according to people familiar with the situation. A partner at the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, McIntosh originally backed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's failed run for Republican candidate in last year's presidential race.

There's an implied assumption that a retweet suggests support, according to UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh. Speaking to Bloomberg's Big Law Business, Volokh says that "Most of the time -- even though people say 'retweets are not endorsements' -- when you post something on Twitter, it's because you think it has something interesting to say and often you agree with it."

KYA, Even on Twitter

McIntosh's retweet fiasco didn't actually cost him the job. Supporters reached out to the administration and vouched that he had no animus toward Trump. Last Tuesday, he was formally nominated to lead the Treasury's general counsel office.

If you're a Lawyer Who Tweets (and you should be) and you're worried that your social media account may get you in trouble, here are some quick tips: First, you can simply avoid tweeting and retweeting anything controversial. Your Twitter feed might seem bland, but it will also stay safe. Alternatively, you can simply save your political, partisan, or otherwise controversial commentary for an alternative account. There's nothing wrong with posting under a pseudonym, after all.

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