Susan Smith Blakely

Young Women Lawyers:  Tweet With Caution!

In the past few years, we have seen that Tweets can get you in trouble. For example, according to an article in the Washington Post titled, "The tweet can set you free --- from your job," several women journalists have sacrificed good jobs after imprudent Tweets. CNN correspondent Diana Magnay of CNN found herself reassigned to Moscow after her Tweet was found unacceptable by her employer, and, in 2010, Octavia Nasr was dismissed from her job as a correspondent at CNN under similar circumstances. There also was a news story earlier this year about a young woman, who made ill-chosen and stereotypical remarks about the people of a nation she was flying to at the time. The Tweet went viral, and she was fired before the plane landed.

Tweets are not the same as conversations with trusted friends. Tweets turn up in all kinds of unintended places, and you have no control over them once they are gone. Beware.

I know that you all love Tweets. I love them, too, when it comes to promoting Best Friends at the Bar. Social media rocks, and there is no other way to reach as many people without much effort. However, unburdening yourself of your troubles and your inner thoughts in cyberspace seems to be a little risky. Be careful what you say and who you say it about.

I wish this was the end of the story, but Tweets are not the only problem. How about e-mails? Remember the BIG LAW firm that got into trouble when an associate e-mailed about "churning work" --- words that were interpreted to mean charging excess hours to a client. That associate was looking for a new job much earlier than anticipated. Beware.

Tweeting is a very limited way of communicating. 140 characters is all you need, right? Not so fast. Somethings cannot be adequately addressed in 140 characters because they are nuanced and need further explanation. Those are the ones you should stay away from. If anything you write can be interpreted in conflicting ways or if you are writing about a subject you should avoid, resist the temptation. Pick up the telephone and deliver that message to someone who you know cares and who you can trust.

Employers understand the problem, and many of them are issuing lengthy "principle papers" on Tweeting, ReTweeting, etc. Here are some examples:

  • Be mindful of the impact that publicly expressed opinions can have on your employers; and
  • Always treat Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms as public activities. ... Civility applies whether an exchange takes place in person, by telephone, by letter or online.

 Excellent food for thought. Beware.

You know I am going to Tweet this. It is for your own good!


Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 


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