You might have noticed that for over the past ten years, Robert Kinney, a recruiter and owner of Kinney Recruiting and one of his cohorts named Evan Jowers, have been waging an online war against me. More and more – and with increasing virulence – Robert Kinney has taken his apparent vendetta against me to the internet. First, he posted anonymous rants on assorted public websites. Lately, he appears to have co-opted a new platform, the Above the Law website. Robert Kinney seems to be a major sponsor for Above the Law. Does Above the Law know how much damage they are allowing Robert Kinney to do to their site by pointing links on every page of their site to Kinney Recruiting’s website? Whether Above the Law is a willing or unwilling captive of Kinney’s skewed and vituperative world view is a subject on which I’ll have more to say later.
Why I’m Speaking Out Now
In any event, Above the Law, with or without Robert Kinney’s direction, has accused me of being a racist, homophobe, sexist and untrustworthy person. Because I know – and people who know me know – I am none of those things, I would normally ignore these unjust charges if free speech just meant I suffered a few hurt feelings. But I can no longer ignore the effect this bizarre, rabid obsession Robert Kinney and Above the Law seem to have with taking me down and tarnishing my name. A simple search of the term BCG Attorney Search contains right on fourth result (see screenshot below) a collection of articles about how I am racist, sexist and should not be recruiting. No other legal publication in the world has this sort of interest in defaming me; however, no other legal publication is connected to Robert Kinney.
Similarly, someone searches for information about my company LawCrossing—the most popular legal job site in the world—and a bunch of information about how I am racist, sexist and so forth comes up as well.
Here is what happens when you search my name on Google.
I have devoted my life to making BCG Attorney Search the gold standard in legal recruiting. It’s much, much more than just a job to me – I feel a moral obligation to provide the highest level of service to our job candidates and their potential employers. Our candidates entrust their recruiter, BCG Attorney Search – and ultimately, me – with helping them make one of their most important life decisions. I want our candidates to know that BCG Attorney Search and I are worthy of that trust, which is sacred to me.
Because I am passionate about legal recruiting, I spend long hours every single day talking to candidates and potential employers. I have placed thousands of candidates over the years, and each of them is an individual to me. I endeavor to know every candidate as a person as well as a professional; I do my very best to help them realize their potential. I only hire recruiters who bring this same passion and a strong devotion to service to the valuable work we do for candidates. We provide our recruiters with in-depth training, hands-on guidance and a broad array of support tools we deliver to our candidates. But most importantly, I make sure that every recruiter understands the moral obligation we have to our candidates as they assist them in making a smooth and positive transition to a new position.
In addition to the many hours I spend working with and for candidates, I spend an equal amount of time trying to deliver comprehensive, accurate information about the legal marketplace. The articles I publish on my websites, including JD Journal, are designed to keep readers informed with accurate facts, correct legal analyses, and precise evaluations of issues of interest. There is no benefit to me by posting an article that has not been properly researched, investigated, or reviewed for accuracy by my recruiters and lawyers alike. Because I am dedicated to transparency, I offer links to key documents including relevant court decisions for the readers to form their own opinions.
If you spend some time on the BCG Attorney Search website, you can see the depth. We spend lots of time explaining the market and various practice areas. Law firms know how much time and effort we spend on our work product for candidates and they appreciate the scope of our expertise in the legal job search industry (with sites such as LawCrossing, EmploymentCrossing, Attorney Resume, Granted.com, Law.net, and JD Journal). We have a passion for ensuring that all qualified lawyers find jobs that suit their talents, and we are committed to making that happen for as many attorneys as possible. We write articles and books about job searches and there is substance and meaning behind what we do. We are not doing a job; we are far more than a profession—we are on a mission. We take what we do very seriously—and everyone who has ever been a legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search can attest to this (click here and scroll down to read testimonials written about me on BCG Attorney Search).
I want both my candidates and readers to know the truth. Even when the truth isn’t easy to speak – like advising job seekers to tone down personal information in their resumes that might touch a potential employer’s hot buttons – I try to always be guided by a moral compass that puts the candidate first and is consistent with the profound respect and love I have for the legal profession and those who practice it.
The Truth about Me
If you wonder whether I am a racist, sexist, homophobe, untrustworthy human being, I wish you could spend a day in my office. I run a very open office with a lot of diverse personalities and people in terms of race, sexual orientation and more. I believe diversity makes a very healthy work environment. My wife – one of the flat-out best and most passionate recruiters I’ve ever met – helps manage our network of recruiters. My general counsel is a woman long past retirement age. My closest personal assistant is an African American woman who manages my professional commitments impeccably. BCG’s nationwide network of recruiters and support personnel come from every conceivable background, ethnicity, sexual orientation and world view. The one thing that all of us share is an unswerving belief that what we do matters to our candidates, to employers and to the profession.
I come from anything but a privileged background. I grew up the child of a very troubled single mother. For most of my childhood, I grew up poor and needing to support myself. I spent time in foster homes and living alone while my mother was in and out of hospitals for various issues.
At the age of 8, I managed to convince the adult in charge of paper routes in my community to allow me to have a paper route—despite the fact you had to be 11 to throw papers at the time. By the time I was 11, I was doing paper routes in the morning and the evening. I used the money I earned to buy the things that most kids take for granted—food, clothes, a bike, school supplies and toys. I never stopped working and never have. When I was 18, I started an asphalt business and supported myself with this through college and law school.
All through this, I read motivational books, business books and other sorts of information because I wanted to better myself and one day emerge successful. When I became successful, I wanted to help others that were working hard with little help as I had. I fought hard for everything I ever did: college, law school, my own business, and knew that a lot of my success was achieved through hard work and knowing the sorts of decisions that need to be made (and not made) to prosper.
I know what it is like to struggle, feel hopeless and want something better. This is exactly why I am a legal recruiter and do what I do. It is also why I am so profoundly grateful to the legal community – attorneys, law firms and others – who have helped me get where I am today.
My struggles with Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiters, Above the Law and others in my past have largely been the result of how seriously I take my mission and important I believe it is. I want people who have worked hard to be taken care of, see the world in a positive light and make the right decisions. I do not see dollar signs in this business when I deal with people; I see their potential and people who, like I did, have played by the rules of society and worked incredibly hard. I am not concerned about myself; I am on a mission to help and grow others.
The purpose of this article is not to garner sympathy. It is a testimony of what has made me stronger, made me want to help people who felt isolated and attacked and showed me that there is a real value to ignoring negativity around you. I largely spent my life growing up feeling attacked and isolated, but I never attacked back. I saw a real danger in doing this and always believed the best thing someone could do was to put their head down, ignore negativity and work hard. I also knew that believing in yourself and overcoming obstacles was extremely important.
I have written hundreds of articles about how to improve yourself and overcome obstacles (see HB.org). My career advice and personal improvement blog is read by a large audience and I take this work seriously (see the testimonials and feedback I have received about this work). I am dedicated to helping people like me interested in overcoming obstacles and finding strength within.
I even spent some time helping Anthony Robbins, a self-improvement guru, run a $25-million business- improvement company he owned named Business Breakthroughs International. I served as the Chief Technology Officer of the Company and spoke about business and motivational issues in front of thousands of people. I live this stuff and take it seriously. I have sought out positive people like him, written about self-improvement and been an active participant in getting the word out about what people can do to help themselves because I know there is value in doing so. I am motivated by growth, doing good and not harming others. That is one reason it is so difficult for me to understand people like Robert Kinney and Above the Law that are belittling me and not just promoting their own positive qualities.
I am naturally attracted to legal recruiting because this is about helping people who feel alone and isolated overcome obstacles. I love what I do and I hate negativity and believe in being positive. I have made fighting against the odds and helping people the centerpiece of what I do and stand for. Also, because of the isolation and sense of hopelessness I experienced growing up, people who need or want new positions appeal to me as people I want to rescue and help. Knowing what it feels like to not have any options, I feel like job candidates are people who deserve my help and who I can help rise. This has been one of my major drivers in legal recruiting and how I have run my companies. I want to help good people who feel excluded. So, for this reason and many others, excluding or penalizing anyone for their race, sex, sexual orientation or economic class is anathema to me – at work, at home and when I look in the mirror.
The Truth about Albert (a.k.a. Robert Kinney) and Evan Jowers
Robert Kinney and Evan are both from rich and powerful backgrounds. Evan’s father was a ship builder who built large yachts for some of the wealthier people in the world and Evan travelled in those circles. Kinney’s father is a very powerful Texas attorney who was a well-known partner at one of the largest law firms in Texas. Robert is proud of the fact that his parents sent him to the elite Phillips Academy Andover for prep school.
I have fired numerous people in my career and been privy to countless secrets as well. I have never divulged private information or my reasons for firing people. My own staff aren’t even aware of this information. It is no one’s business. In the legal profession, I have always believed that lawyers have a responsibility to each other to respect confidential, sensitive information. However, with Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers, those rules seem to have been thrown out the window.
For the most part, I have chosen to respond to Robert Kinney’s antics through legal channels. Some of the lawsuits I have filed are referenced in this article, along with links to court opinions. But given that this has been going on for so long, and is now involving websites such as Above the Law, I feel the need to give my side of the story. I guess Kinney’s platform is Above the Law. This is mine.
The simple, undisputed truth is that both Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers are disgruntled ex-employees of BCG Attorney Search who apparently are still upset because I fired them more than 10 years ago. I first met both of them as candidates who needed jobs because they had been fired from big law firms. I felt sorry for both of them because their prior histories were keeping them from getting new positions. So, as an example of “no good deed goes unpunished,” I hired them as recruiters. I trained them and I tried to support them in realizing their full potential as legal recruiters.
Despite spending thousands of dollars, losing hundreds of hours in training time and my good intentions toward Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers, both of them were terminated by BCG Attorney Search for cause. Both of them engaged in conduct that was dishonest, disloyal and – most of all – a disservice to the job candidates and law firms that BCG Attorney Search so passionately tries to serve with the highest caliber recruiting services.
To me, nothing is more meaningful than when someone steps in and sees the value in you and has faith in you. I am grateful for everyone that has ever helped me. I give my law schools and colleges money each month and go out of my way to thank those who have made a difference to me in my own life. I hoped to give both Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers a one-of-a-kind, chance of a lifetime positive experience. However, they didn’t seem grateful and apparently could hardly wait to punish me and the company for hiring them in the first place.
Kinney’s history with BCG Attorney Search was troubled almost from the beginning. He never followed our protocols and always expected special treatment – like his campaign demanding that I buy him a 5 series BMW, which he waged over months in countless phone calls and e-mails. Every small success brought a new demand – “Pay me more!”, “Cut down on BCG Attorney Search’s share of placement commissions!” and finally “Make me your partner and put my name on the door!” For Kinney, recruiting wasn’t about helping candidates find their perfect positions; every issue for Kinney came down to “what’s in it for me.”
The final straw was when Kinney contacted me and told me that he wanted BCG Attorney Search to pay part of its commission to his friend who was an associate at a large law firm in Alaska if we made a placement there. Apparently, his friend was in charge of delivering the resumes to the partners in charge of hiring. Kinney had told his friend that in exchange for only showing the partners resumes from BCG Attorney Search, Kinney would pay him $10,000 under the table. He wanted me to pay half the bribe. This is not how I do business. It would have jeopardized our relationship with the Alaskan firm and this last move by Robert Kinney was improper if not illegal. I was concerned about my reputation, my companies, my bar license and playing by the rules. I told Kinney I wanted no part of it and in no uncertain terms not to do it. Kinney did not seem to care and seemed to indicate that he would do so anyway.
Given the risk Kinney posed to the company, we decided that the only proper thing to do was to let Robert Kinney go because his presence was toxic both within the company and also to BCG Attorney Search’s reputation and relationship with law firms and candidates.
Click below to read the emails leading up to the firing of Kinney:
- Response from Harrison to proposed bribes
- Concerns over Kinney
- Response about reputation from Harrison to Kinney
After being let go from the company, Kinney immediately emailed everyone in our company acting as if he was resigning to go start his own legal recruiting firm. He also sent a link to a newly constructed website for Kinney Recruiting and we let it go at that. I wished Kinney the best and never had any intention of speaking negatively about him to anyone in the firm or to anyone else.
What was interesting, though, is that shortly after Robert Kinney left, then BCG Attorney Search employee Evan Jowers told me that he was interested in moving back to his native Miami. At great expense when we first hired Jowers, I had paid to have movers relocate all of Evan’s belongings from Miami to Los Angeles and had been supporting Evan during his time in Los Angeles with advances, a place to live and more. Even though Evan was not living up to his potential as a recruiter, when he asked me to move him back to Miami and told me that he wanted to work there, I agreed.
I learned later that Evan never really worked for BCG Attorney Search after I moved him to Miami. In the first office that the company paid for, he rarely if ever showed up for work. He asked for a different office, to which I foolishly agreed. Then, I called his new office one day to find that Evan had apparently outsourced being a recruiter for BCG Attorney Search to a stranger so that Evan could take a job working for a Russian man who had criminal charges leveled against him in Miami. Evan was helping to defend this man and working with his law firm, White & Case, as a liaison. I believe that this man had originally contacted BCG Attorney Search for help finding an attorney to hire and that Evan “placed himself” into the job. Of course, I had no choice but to terminate Evan immediately.
Soon thereafter, I learned that Evan was working with Robert Kinney and found this quite odd. Two people who had both been fired for being dishonest were now being turned loose on the world. I can only hope that all the things I have done in my life to help attorneys to try and create good won’t be compromised by the menaces I created by giving Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers the opportunity to become legal recruiters.
If you are interested in the entire employment history of Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers with BCG Attorney Search, CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STORY: THE EMPLOYMENT HISTORY OF ROBERT KINNEY AND EVAN JOWERS WITH BCG ATTORNEY SEARCH.
Robert Kinney’s Cowardly “Revenge” for Being Fired: Become “Albert” and Start Posting Anonymously—Viciously Attacking Me, My Family and Companies
In June of 2007 – almost 5 years after Kinney and Evan had been fired – I was vacationing with my family. The manager of BCG Attorney Search forwarded me an extremely nasty article that had been posted on a complaint site by someone named Albert and the posting was unnaturally personal in nature. It included misrepresentations such as:
- my father did not like me (he was working for me at the time),
- my ex-wife did not like me,
- my fraternity brothers did not like me (one was an ex-employee of the company at the time),
- I had stolen information,
- my companies were scams,
- I was “cooking the books”,
- no one trusts me,
- my mother is an alcoholic,
- everyone who has ever known me dislikes me,
- and more.
The essay went on in some depth and I was very confused and hurt by it. I did not understand who would write anything like this and could not imagine who I had upset so much. The person seemed to have an unnatural obsessive interest in me and I could not think of anyone close to me who would write such things.
It did great harm to my businesses because Google and search engines love scandal. The first thing that would come up when people would search for my companies and name was Albert’s article. Then a second one appeared by another anonymous author and a few more appeared after that. Then lots of anonymous comments all over the web started appearing.
The information posted was harmful to me personally and to my companies. People formed opinions about me before meeting me. I was refused leases of office space when people Googled for information about me. I was in the process of selling a company and had to spend over a year answering questions about information posted about me on the internet. The postings by Albert and others cast a negative light on my recruiting work, which I believed (and still believe) is a noble calling and an important service.
In May 2008, I discovered a new 12-paragraph post entitled “BCG Attorney Search and Affiliated Companies Company [sic] Built on a web of lies” on a complaint website. The post was again signed Albert. In the post, not only was I maliciously maligned, called offensive names and accused of unethical business practices, but Albert also attacked BCG Attorney Search recruiters stating that none of BCG Attorney Search’s recruiters “actually did much recruiting,” and that he “would bet that the majority of the people who do work for the company are probably still in India.” BCG Attorney Search recruiters can vouch for the invalidity of the attacks because each personally knows their considerable dedicated time and effort and know they work out of BCG Attorney Search offices throughout the United States – not India.
In the same post, Albert attacked BCG Attorney Search’s sister companies by writing disparaging comments about Legal Authority and LawCrossing, warning readers, “Just don’t believe a SINGLE THING you read on [Law Crossing’s] website.” Albert ended the post by stating, “If you choose to work with these companies, you will be doing business with a guy who has negative references from most people who have known him throughout his life from boyhood to his current age of about 40. From an ex-wife, to his own father, to his fraternity brothers, to his former work colleagues, to his former and probably current employees, there are dozens of people who would stand up and say, ‘don’t trust Harrison Barnes.’”
Incredibly, while Robert Kinney once cowardly hid behind the false persona Albert, he now seems to hide behind Above the Law and Joe Patrice (a writer for the Above the Law) to carry out his dirty work. On the one hand Kinney is a bully and on the other hand he is clearly a coward because he uses other people’s names to do his dirty work. Because Kinney was pretending to be “Albert” and would not willingly release his identity, I spent two years in court before the website where Kinney pretended to be Albert was forced to turn over his identity.
I have since learned it is best to avoid hiring young people who have been fired from an early job. The reason for this is that they are generally angry and will sabotage the often amazing position with their next employer so they feel like they have evened the score. I see this time and time again – especially from ambitious men.
They will fire the new employer even if they are treated right. Their self-esteem has been damaged by being fired and they have a strong need to level the playing field in their own mind. I believe that Kinney and Evan may have felt a need to even the score with me – despite what I did for them.
Both Kinney and Evan grew up with “silver spoons” and were supported in ways I never was. They were given every advantage possible and when they were down and out their parents did not come to their rescue – I did. That is one reason their attacks are so despicable and low. I wonder if they resent that someone with my background helped them when no one else did. In return for this help they betrayed me, bit the hand that fed them and are now on a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation.
What Does Above the Law Have to Gain – And to Lose?
What makes this saga so interesting, though, is that Kinney has now found a formal internet venue for his gossip and disparaging comments about me. After being sued for his comments as “Albert”, Kinney appears to have decided to have another venue do his dirty work and use them to attack me as well. This venue is Above the Law, a legal tabloid owned by David Lat, to which Kinney pays a marketing fee. Above the Law’s parent company is Breaking Media with John Lerner as its CEO. Not only am I and my companies being subjected to attacks via internet gossip sites, I recently received a phishing email identified as coming from none other than John Lerner and Breaking Media (see the phishing email below and a copy of an email we sent to recruiters about this below).
Phishing email we received from John Lerner:
Copy of the email we sent to recruiters about this incident:
Am I now under an illegal attack from Above the Law as well? Isn’t it enough to call me racist, a homophobe and attempt to destroy my reputation for their biggest advertiser? I have never had any email contact with Above the Law’s CEO. How did he get my email? Moreover, when I emailed him about this seeking an explanation he did not respond – which makes it seem even more nefarious.
Here is an email I received from a former well-known US Attorney who reviewed the information about Above the Law’s phishing email. I’ve been told not to say anything about the FBI’s involvement (or lack thereof) but obviously I take this seriously and this is alarming.
It is because of these underhanded attacks instigated by Above the Law and its principals (including Joe Patrice), that I feel compelled to write this article at this time. The site features pictures of Kinney (and Evan) all over it and with its gossip and anonymous comments, it has become the forum through which Kinney (and now Evan) spread gossip and promote Kinney’s name and likeness.
Unlike any other major publication, for reasons that are unclear, the publication has allowed Kinney to place a link on every single page of the site directly to the Kinney Recruiting website. When an important website like Above the Law sends links from every page of its website to a website like Kinney Recruiting, the search engines conclude that Kinney Recruiting must be just as—if not more important—than Above the Law. Therefore, when people search for legal job related searches (legal recruiter, etc.) Kinney will come up first and Above the Law (incredibly) far below Kinney. Therefore, Above the Law is actually hurting itself and its advertisers in support of Kinney Recruiting. This is nonsensical and something I have never seen a publication do in my entire career. They are literally cannibalizing all of their employment-related traffic from Google and other search engines by sending it to Kinney.
See below for more information about some of the articles written on Above the Law:
- What is Wrong With Above the Law and Joe Patrice?
- Memo to Associates: Don’t Follow Advice on Above the Law
Thus, whether they know it or not, Above the Law has been largely co-opted by Robert Kinney. Law.com, Law360 and other sites would never allow an advertiser to deprive the site of the value of its web traffic, but for some reason Above the Law has conceded its most valuable asset to Robert Kinney.
Above the Law is a site that is right up Kinney’s alley. The site’s genesis was an anonymous blogger inside of a law firm. The “anonymous blogger” was David Lat and, incredibly, he was posing as a woman to keep his identity secret. These secret bloggers love to play games and hide who they really are while hurting others! Robert Kinney likes to be anonymous as well. He also likes to attack people behind their backs and hide in cyberspace. What Above the Law has done so well, however, is develop a very strong community, has interesting news about law firms and what is going on with them, is not stale, and many of its writers are dedicated, interested in the subject matter and create catchy news. They are not doing journalism—it is style over substance—but what they do is done well. The proof is in the numbers and people like the publication.
Despite its bona fides, Above the Law is very connected to Kinney and has now turned into his personal attack dog, writing various articles that call me sexist and racist, say I should not be a legal recruiter and more. The articles they write about me appear attached to Kinney because some are writing about articles that are already years old when Above the Law writes about them. Moreover, these Kinney-esque articles coincide with Kinney’s legal losses in his ongoing legal battles with me.
Kinney has the ability to corrupt and undermine good but weak people and manipulate them to go against their principles and give him what he wants by doing things that they should not be doing. For example, Evan Jowers is a good guy who seems to have been manipulated into pursuing Kinney’s agenda.
- Kinney has tried to do this with me repeatedly and succeeded for some time (I need a BMW, I need more money, I need special treatment, I need to do things my way).
- Kinney tried to do this with his friend by bribing him (let me illegally pay you some money to betray your firm under the table).
- David Lat, the Founder of Above the Law, is smart enough not to be taken advantage of like this. (He is a graduate of Yale Law School with a distinguished intellectual pedigree and clerkship and employment history). I cannot believe that David Lat would really buy into Kinney’s threats of “Hey David! I give you guys money! You better publish some taken-out- of-context articles to help me and try and tarnish someone else’s reputation in the community because he is my competitor and I am obsessed with him.” Incredibly, David Lat is either a willing participant in Kinney’s war against me or an unwitting dupe of Robert Kinney’s vendetta. Either way, I ask you to consider the source before believing what you read.
What Happened to Me after Robert Kinney’s Posts Falsely Defamed Me
The problem with Kinney’s post was that Google loves scandal and people love reading negative information. When Kinney’s post started appearing it rocketed right to the top of the search engines. Thus, anyone searching for my name immediately was treated to the #1 or #2 result being Kinney’s long screed. It was alarming to people who did not know me well and it did profound harm to my companies because the information was so personal and harsh – the attempt seemed to be to isolate me personally. The article did just that.
One of the worst things that happened to me as a product of Kinney/Albert’s nasty screed was when I was fired from my role as the Area Chair for the alumni admissions committee of the University of Chicago Admissions Office. For years, I had been volunteering to interview applicants each year for the school and spent hundreds of hours doing this and writing reports about them for the school each year. I then was “promoted” and started supervising other interviewers and took responsibility for the entire Los Angeles area. I was very proud of this role and it meant a lot to me because I was volunteering and helping a school that had helped me and I was giving something back. I felt indebted to the school and took my role very seriously. I hosted parties at my home a few times a year for new students and others and enjoyed it. It was important to me.
When Kinney’s post started appearing in Google searches, the school became alarmed. I had recently pledged $75,000 to a $150,000 scholarship to the school. One afternoon, I got an official email from a bunch of people in the admissions office telling me they no longer wanted me associated with what they were doing. Even though I had been a loyal volunteer to the school for years and pledged a lot of money, I could no longer do any work for the admissions office. I called the person in charge of giving for the school that had solicited the donation and he was apologetic but told me that “Albert’s post” had made this happen. I was crushed because all the people I had spent years cultivating a relationship with told me in one swoop that they wanted nothing to do with me. They did not want to be associated with my name because of what was coming up when people searched for information about me.
When I go to school events for my children, people bring it up. Socially, everyone knew about it. People I had known for years started talking about me like I was a criminal. When I met new people, they often turned from friendly to cold and distant after reading Kinney’s diatribe after Googling me. My businesses and success were presumed the result of something bad. I felt almost like I did growing up – excluded because of someone else’s behavior beyond my control.
Now, of course, I am being subjected to this again. People that search for my name immediately are treated to Above the Law’s references about how I am a racist, sexist, should not be recruiting – and a picture of Robert Kinney and pitch for his recruiting services right next to all of this. This is simply amazing – Kinney is likely taking people interested in my service because (1) negative articles on Above the Law come up when my name (or company names) are searched and (2) Kinney is right there beside the negative information. Above the Law writes articles that trash me and my companies and Kinney is right there to be the recruiter for them. Below are two examples of this:
My Promise to You
“Why is this guy so interested in me?” I once asked an attorney working for me.
“Because you are successful. There is no point in attacking unsuccessful people.”
I am not sure if it is success, envy, what I know, him getting fired or something deeper and more personal that only Robert Kinney knows. What I do know is that I spend almost all of my time recruiting and helping my candidates and staying deeply involved in this business. I love the business of recruiting and the substance of it. Regardless of Kinney’s fanatical interest in me, I promise you that my own focus will be on my work, our candidates, our employees and on our mission to be the best, most responsive and cutting-edge legal recruiters in the business.
I’ll keep my promise to those who trust me and look forward to earning your trust one day – and one great placement – at a time.
1. A Short History of the Litigation Between Harrison Barnes and Robert Kinney
On November 3, 2008, I filed a libel lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. GC041766 based upon the disparaging posts. Because the post was anonymous, I had to bring the suit against Doe Defendants. After continuous attempts for nearly nine months to determine the identity of the poster of such false and injurious comments, I served a subpoena on XCEntric Ventures, LLC, the owners of the complaint website who in turn revealed Robert Kinney as the poster. Having received the identity of the poster, I filed an amended complaint naming Kinney as a defendant as well as adding BCG Attorney Search and numerous other entities owned by me as plaintiffs to the case.
Incongruously, after authoring the distasteful post on the complaint website, which caused so much distress and harm, Kinney added fuel to the fire by bringing his own action against me and my companies in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC 488409. The basis of Kinney’s lawsuit was that my prior lawsuit was maliciously brought against him. Kinney’s claims were for malicious prosecution for me bringing my prior lawsuit; misappropriation of name and likeness; unjust enrichment; unfair competition; and intentional interference with prospective economic relations. The last five causes of action were premised upon a single online press release profiling Kinney on BCG’s website when Kinney was hired as a legal recruiter by BCG, published ten years before!
Kinney’s lawsuit was frivolous at best. It cannot be disputed that my prior lawsuit based upon the distasteful and libelous statements in a post written by a coward hiding behind a false name had merit. It was only because of Kinney’s determination to hide his true identity that my claims were too late. I filed to dismiss all of Kinney’s claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court granted my motion as to the malicious prosecution action but denied the motion for the remaining five causes of action. Both parties appealed the trial court’s decision to the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Case No. Appellate B250188. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the Malicious Prosecution Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion as to the malicious prosecution cause of action and also reversed the trial court’s denial of the Malicious Prosecution Defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion as to the five remaining causes of action related to the press release. The trial court entered an order in my favor, granting the anti-SLAPP motion as to all of Kinney’s claims. I have yet to collect from Kinney on the Judgment entered in my favor.
Kinney also sued me in Texas. In 2010, Kinney filed a defamation lawsuit against me in Travis County Court, Texas, Case No. C-1-cv-10-004331. The defamation claim was based upon a factually correct article, supported by authentic evidence including Kinney’s own email concerning the bribe. The article, originally written for JD Journal, recited information about the California lawsuit against me by Kinney. Kinney sought an injunction from Texas to suppress my right of free speech to post articles on the internet and requested an Order from the court for me to remove the article from JD Journal. Kinney also sought a ruling that I be enjoined from posting articles about him in the future.
The Texas trial and appellate courts denied Kinney the injunction, finding his request for injunctive relief was an unconstitutional chilling of free speech under Texas law. Kinney appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled that ordering removal of an article already posted was not unconstitutional. However, it declined to order an injunction against future postings. This issue was appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Later in May 2010, I filed my own Texas lawsuit against Kinney. For many years, I had let go of what I perceived to be conduct by Kinney that had been detrimental to my business, but with Kinney opening the door to litigation by filing lawsuits in California and Texas, I filed my own lawsuit bringing breach of employment contract claims against him. However, my lawsuit was dismissed with the court finding that I should have brought these claims in my earlier California action.
The procedural history and tally of litigation wins and losses are a whole separate story and they have been the product of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and back and forth that continues to this day.
As is permitted under the law, in November 2015, I filed a malicious prosecution and abuse of process complaint against Kinney in Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC 600371. As the trial court in Kinney’s case found that all of Kinney’s claims against me were meritless, I am entitled to bring a claim against him for the harm he caused me and my companies by having to defend against this meritless lawsuit. My case is still pending.
2. How Robert Kinney and Kinney Recruiting Have Pirated the Above the Law Website
Here is how Robert Kinney is taking advantage of Above the Law from a search engine perspective:
- For the purposes of search engines, every page on the web has a certain number of points—and some contain more than others. A homepage generally has the most points.
- Pages get points based on other pages with authority pointing to them. Thus, if a website links to another website that website will get some points.
- These points are called “authority”.
- Most websites point their authority to their inner pages to give those pages more authority. If you go to Law.com, CNN, LawCrossing and other sites you will see they point links on most of their pages to their inner pages, or other pages.
- Points with the most authority “points” come up the highest in web searches.
- Kinney has gotten Above the Law to point every single page of their website to his website. This means
- That Above the Law is less likely to come up as highly in search results because they are sending their points to Kinney.
- That Kinney is very likely to come up in search results because such a well-known and popular media company is sending him so many points.
- This sort of “coup” is unbelievable, weakens Above the Law and is the sort of thing that is worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. I doubt if Kinney’s “marketing fee” that he pays Above the Law is anywhere near big enough to cover the value he derives from Above the Law.
- Due to this, Kinney may contribute very little to the legal community in terms of content and so forth that people link to and send him points; however, Google thinks he is a very authoritative source of information because of the mass of points being sent to him by Above the Law.
- The prostitution of a serious media property like Above the Law sending links from every single one of their pages to him is almost unprecedented.
3. The Employment History of Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers with BCG Attorney Search
In December of 2000, Robert Kinney applied for job search assistance with BCG Attorney Search. I remember him applying for job assistance because he was unemployed and had been a corporate attorney—and six months earlier corporate had been a very active practice area. Initially, Robert Kinney appeared unmarketable and unplaceable. The presumption was that he was an opportunist who was focused more on following a money trail than on practicing law, given that he had started out as a litigation attorney but then moved into corporate practice when that market became active. After several months of being unable to place Kinney with a firm, I decided to give him a call to find out what was going on with him. I have always hated seeing seemingly talented people unemployed.
In speaking with Kinney, I liked him and wanted to help him. One aspect of legal recruiting that has always motivated me has been the chance to help attorneys who, for whatever reason, are talented but not able to get jobs. Kinney had gone to the University of Pennsylvania for his undergraduate degree and the University of Texas for law school. He bounced around law firms and practice areas a bit but he seemed to have been someone who was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. His practice area was very slow and law firms in Texas were not hiring him. Other attorneys in his practice area seemed to be getting jobs but Kinney remained unemployed and this seemed odd. I sensed that he might have burned some bridges and that was making finding employment difficult for him. I checked in with him on a regular basis and as the market started heating up again I tried hard to find him a job.
At some point, Kinney and I started discussing the idea that legal recruiting might be worth pursuing for him – he was simply not getting jobs in Texas. It is often difficult for attorneys to get jobs when they are unemployed and have switched practice areas. In Kinney’s case, he did not have enough corporate experience to be marketable in corporate law and he had left litigation, which was problematic because the perception of law firms would be that he would not want to go back to litigation.
Kinney was confident and seemed to be getting some clients at his solo law practice, where he was doing mainly litigation. But I felt sorry for him and wanted to help him. Moreover, I sensed that his inability to get jobs in large Texas firms would make him hungry and want to prove something. He felt betrayed by the system. It certainly did not appear that his affiliations through Andover, the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Texas Law School were helping Kinney, so I decided to help him myself.
After bringing Kinney out to interview at BCG Attorney Search in Los Angeles, he was hired and told that he would have to train for the next few months. Kinney told me he was a little uncomfortable working for someone his own age and for someone who knew people he knew. But Kinney said that he had “checked me out” and spoken to my fraternity brothers and others who knew me and that they all had good things to say about me. I had been president of my fraternity in college and had a positive experience in college. I told Kinney that I appreciated his confidence in me and that if he threw himself into the work, great things would happen for him.
For his training, we flew Kinney to LA each Monday and back to Austin each Friday, so he could spend the weekend in Texas with his wife. The way we typically train legal recruiters is based on a model of how barristers in England are trained. They sit in the office of a senior barrister and watch what he or she does and learn the processes. The senior barrister will also observe the junior barrister and offer feedback on the junior’s progress. Throughout the day, the two discuss issues that come up and how to handle them.
Early on, my most immediate task became to sell Kinney on the importance of 100% commitment to being a legal recruiter and the things I liked about doing the work. I believed that I was helping him get into a career in which he could excel and I wanted to give him confidence in this work.
As the weeks went by for Robert Kinney, he became more and more committed to legal recruiting. He was watching me make placements and I was having him begin to work with candidates. He was realizing the potential that he would have in the job if he committed to the work. However, Robert Kinney started taking a great interest in various legal gossip sites like Greedy Associates. Since he hated his old firm so much for firing him, he would perk up and start smiling the minute that he learned something negative about the firm on one of the gossip sites. Kinney had what I thought was an unnatural interest in gossip.
After Robert Kinney started recruiting, he and I spoke on the phone just about every day. He had a lot of confidence that early on made him do quite well. He met with law firms, networked and talked about things he had in common and more. Robert Kinney’s father was a partner in a large Texas law firm and so Kinney comes from a legal background. This is something that he was able to draw on during his work and that gave him credibility and an understanding of the legal field.
Robert Kinney had generally been very gracious and well-mannered up until the work he was trained to do began to pay off. When Kinney made one of his first placements with the company and was told there was a five-day hold on the funds, he became very upset and wanted to call up the bank and yell at them. I discovered Kinney was also calculating and rude to many law firms—I worried that this behavior would start hurting us. When Kinney started interacting with other recruiters in our firm, they generally took a disliking to him. Kinney played games, was overly calculating, burned bridges and made enemies.
One recruiter Robert Kinney did get along with was Evan Jowers. Before I hired Evan, he was fired from a large firm in New York and was my candidate. I hired him as a recruiter after he did not get a job. I hired Evan around the same time as Kinney because I thought Evan would be a loyal, hard worker. Evan had been in the military and was pretty good at following orders. Evan also seemed to always need a role model, or person to follow.
Knowing what it is like to feel hopeless and alone is a profound motivator for me – and it is why I hired Kinney and it is also why I hired Evan. I paid to move Evan to California. I gave him a place to live in my home for several months and took care of him and made him feel supported when he was down. I tried to emotionally support both Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney in a way I would have appreciated when I was young.
A month or two into Evan’s training with me, I found out that Robert Kinney had been calling up Evan and giving him recruiting assignments –without my authorization. Evan had dutifully done the work and I was upset about it. I got on the phone and started yelling at Kinney right away and I probably overreacted –Evan was sitting right there. I told Evan that I was doing this because I felt like I needed to defend him.
In legal recruiting—like all jobs—there are ways to cut corners and there are ways to do things right. One of my beliefs has always been that you need to spend a lot of time with candidates and doing write-ups about candidates. This is an essential aspect of top-quality legal recruiting. You also must devote time to improving your work product. There are countless rules that legal recruiters need to follow in order to be effective at their jobs and all recruiters should strive to be better and better at their positions.
My largest conflict with Robert Kinney during his time with us was that he was not following these rules. He seemed to believe that legal recruiting was only about money and only about Robert Kinney. The disconnect between Kinney and me was always about the point of recruiting. The difference between style and substance and the conflict between them is as old as the hills. In my professional life, I have always tried to stand for something and do something meaningful that elevates people in the legal profession (and in other professions). I am certainly not trying to tear them down. It is not about me – it is about something greater. I have profound respect for the legal profession and the attorneys in it and my career and life have largely been dedicated to helping people realize their potential in it – even Robert Kinney.
When Kinney would make a placement (or even if he was planning on making a placement soon), he would fire out a bunch of emails to me and often call me. No other legal recruiter who has ever worked here has done this. I felt Kinney needed a lot of affirmation that he was special, an important guy and I would give it to him. Kinney seemed to believe that the entire name of the game was just about making money and how it made him look. As Kinney became more and more successful, he started to become more and more demanding.
In one unusual episode, after he had made a few placements, he decided that he needed a 5 Series BMW and wanted me to pay for it. He told me that he and his wife had been having financial problems for so long that it was important for him to show her some outward signs of success so she would be proud of him and their family. This was very important to him and we went back and forth on it for weeks and sometimes he would call me two or three times a day about it.
Then, as he started making many placements, he started demanding that he be paid higher commissions. We were advertising BCG Attorney Search heavily in the market at the time. Then he demanded we pay him as an independent contractor – something we did for him but no longer do for legal recruiters working for us because it might be illegal.
I became concerned by Kinney’s need for attention, demands, fights with recruiters in our firm, refusal to follow our systems (which exist for the benefit of our candidates and law firm clients) and also why someone I had helped was suddenly becoming such a problem. He even started saying we should be partners and call the firm some combination of our two names. I’ve never considered BCG Attorney Search (short for Barrister Consulting Group—named after our training method) about Harrison Barnes or my name. I always thought it was about the process and high level of service.
The problems with Kinney became worse. He believed that instead of sharing his commission with us for the work that we do as recruiting company, he should pay only a “marketing fee.” He made various demands that were not part of our process and when his demands were not met he called other legal recruiters in the company trying to get them to make the same demands. The majority of the demands were so extreme that giving in to them would have crushed the company financially and operationally.
During this time, Kinney and Evan had been discussing opening their own competitive recruiting firm. Kinney had an employment contract with our company that contained various non-solicitation clauses—but he ignored these provisions. I only learned about this when another recruiter who had been solicited to join their enterprise but declined told me about it.
Kinney’s demands became so exhausting that I decided to let my in-house counsel start taking Kinney’s phone calls and handle his demands. It appeared that Kinney was spending more time worrying about Kinney’s compensation and Kinney than he was doing his job. Kinney broke many protocols, including sharing the identity of our candidates with legal recruiters outside of the company and asking for their assistance in placing candidates. This was bad on several counts. I knew nothing about these other legal recruiters and their reputations and whether they would do a valid job for our candidates. Also, I had no idea if these recruiters would pay BCG Attorney Search if they placed the candidate or if they would pay Kinney directly. There was so much scheming and game playing with Kinney it was difficult to keep up. Every game, artifice and trick that was available was seemingly at his disposal.
A significant problem with the sort of demands Kinney was making and conflict he was creating was simple: he was not just bullying me, he was bullying candidates and law firms. At least a few law firms threatened never to work with us because of his behavior toward them and the demands he was making. In addition, he was not afraid to bully candidates. In contrast to the advisory and helpful style that I was building a company on, his motto seemed to be “Do what Kinney wants!” and he had all sorts of underhanded and manipulative ways to do this. Associating with Kinney was hurting my company, hurting my company’s reputation and likely manipulating candidates. In addition, he was taking his bullying throughout the company and doing the same thing with other recruiters—some who wanted nothing to do with him. This sort of noncongenial atmosphere is not what I was seeking to have in the company because cooperation among recruiters is essential for placing candidates.
Finally, the biggest problem was the question: What would be the long-term effect of Kinney’s actions on the company? The result would be that fewer law firms would want to deal with our company and we’d get a bad reputation in the market. I can only imagine how many options Kinney Recruiting has for their candidates and how many law firms they have upset with bullying.
Kinney’s happiest time at BCG Attorney Search was in the days leading up to his former law firm going out of business. In the days before this, he was happily calling and emailing me various pieces of information from message boards. Kinney made sure everyone in the legal recruiting firm knew about this right away – look what happened to someone who fired me! Now they look bad and I look good!
Kinney could not follow rules. He undermined authority and wanted to cheat and needed to work through issues on his own.
In the weeks after leaving our company, I spoke with Kinney every week or so and allowed him to continue working with people we had sent him before he left. I have no knowledge of whether or not Kinney cheated me at this point and have nothing to indicate one way or another. I was nice to Kinney during this time and certainly had no interest in making enemies.
Only two legal recruiters in our firm (and our general counsel) ever knew about the reason that Kinney was fired and we never spoke about it with anyone. We wanted to protect our reputation and not hurt Kinney’s at the same time. It was simply not a good fit.
When Evan moved to Miami, his streak of making no placements continued for several months. He would often miss our weekly teleconferences. When he was there, I would hear boats and so forth in the background and Evan would clearly be speaking to me from outdoors. One day I called the office looking for him and the receptionist who answered (it was a shared receptionist) told me he had never been there and mail was piled up in front of his door. I was upset because Evan was supposedly working full-time for us. When I confronted Evan, he told me that the other attorneys in the office were “jealous” of him because he did not hang out with them and were trying to get him. He said he was working all the time and did not have time to be their friend.
Part of being a good recruiter is seeing the best in people and I continued to see the best in Evan. Evan then told me he wanted to move offices and that this would save me some money. So he moved offices. One day I called the office and someone I had never spoken with before answered the phone and started acting like that person was a legal recruiter and asking me various questions and so forth. I could not believe it. I fired Evan immediately. There was nothing to talk about. It was unethical, out of control, dishonest and more.
Update: We sent a cease and desist letter to Breaking Media, Inc., the parent company of Above the Law. Below is a full copy of the letter: