Nashville Blogger Threatened with Lawsuit
April 12, 2007 7:42 AM   Subscribe

A Nashville-area blogger wrote about her experience at an employment agency called JL Kirk & Associates, formerly Bernard Haldane. An associate at the employment agency responded to the blog post. The blogger reposted the employment agent's comment as its own post, also including a rebuttal. Yesterday the blogger received a certified letter from an attorney representing the agency (text of letter) stating that the blogger must remove the posts by 4/13 or risk a lawsuit for "tortuous interference" (sic). They also threatened to "contact (her) Internet Service Provider, Comcast, to have (her) internet access shut down." The story of JL Kirk & Associates and their threats of a lawsuit against a blogger has now been picked up by Fark and Instapundit. This is undoubtedly not the outcome JL Kirk & Associates was hoping for.
posted by brittney (44 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Recommendation: if your lawyer doesn't know how to spell 'tortious', hire a new lawyer.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:55 AM on April 12, 2007

I'm going to start a new bakery and call it "Tartuous Interference." And if that fails, I'll just convert it to an escort service. No need to change the letterhead!

See what a good businessman I am? On this foundation shall my fortune be made!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:59 AM on April 12, 2007 [5 favorites]

I am having trouble remembering the name of the agency, could you type it out in full a few more times?
posted by Space Coyote at 8:00 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Funny.... I had a run in with a similar company when I was in my own career depths some years back. I was at least able to recognize it as a scam after finishing the first interview, I decided to do a little background research. After filtering through a pile of false testimonials first, I found numerous mentions of them on better business bureau complaint website. I decided not to pursue a relationship with them.

I still am astonished by their reply, particularly the long missive from the matronly grandmother in the tacky office. Even the hackiest of hack companies would strongly discourage any of its employees in reacting in this manner.

It's funny that people can still be so ignorant about this kind of shit. It doesn't take a lot to maintain the appearance of acting like a legitimate firm, but these clowns couldn't even get that right.
posted by psmealey at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2007

It's pretty obvious their entire business is built on shrouding themselves in mystery, so they can rope people in, give them the tough talk, then demand money upfront (insane!) for job leads.

I hope the couple is willing to fight and make a mockery of this shady employment agency.
posted by mathowie at 8:05 AM on April 12, 2007

The JK&A sales techniques sound remarkably similar (identical) to Haldanes. When your name is mud on the street, change the letterhead, the pens and the paintings.
posted by Standeck at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2007

Part of the response from JL Kirk -
Our business model provides that we are able to grant services to approximately 225-250 clients per year

225 x $4,400.00
That's a lotta dough
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 8:15 AM on April 12, 2007

I'm stuck on wondering if all of the allegations in the blog are true or not. If they are, then the legal case against the blogger is thin. If they are not true, then anyone who is lied about in print should have the same cause of action against a blogger as against anyone else.

There's a big part of me that says hey, if you don't want this sort of thing to happen to you, don't publish your thoughts in a blog for the entire world to see. If you are a lawyer sending such letters, consider how you look if the letter itself is published. Lessons for everyone.
posted by Muddler at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

What shitheads. It really is entertaining when evil fucks fail to understand how teh internets work.

Bighappyfunhouse - and the fact they claimed that keeping count argued against them being a scam!
posted by EatTheWeek at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2007

I wouldn't worry too much about JLK... they just lost their representation, because King & Ballow has a conflict of interest: basically, Coble is also a client, because she freelances for WKRN.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:25 AM on April 12, 2007

I'm also getting a real kick out of the belittlement in the firm's response. If Mr. Coble was such a difficult placement, what would $5000 help with, anyhow? Comedy gold!
posted by EatTheWeek at 8:26 AM on April 12, 2007

The reason that the spouse has to be present is that otherwise, the mark can weasel out of it by saying he has to consult with his wife, at home, in private, before paying the fee. By having both decisionmakers present, it's easier to pressure them both at the same time and disallow them from coming to an unpressured decision about the merits of paying these people thousands of dollars for "assistance". This is a pretty classic tactic for pressure sales, i.e. selling timeshares in Florida or something similar.

Real executive search agencies get paid by the hiring company, and only when the hire is final.
posted by jellicle at 8:27 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this is just a gem ..

I plan to see the original Cherubs in Italy this summer. Mrs. Coble was so free to criticize my surroundings – she would die if she saw my beyond eclectic, antique filled home! Wonder what hers’ looks like?!

posted by EatTheWeek at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2007

Renaming the company works. Just look at Phillip Morris Altria.
posted by jeversol at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2007

Don't blog angry, matronly grandmother.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:09 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I doubt they'll sue, they'll just drop the issue and change their name again
posted by delmoi at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2007

Jellicle is spot on - when I read that passage in her account I felt a bit sick. No reputable company will ask to meet with you spouse or significant other. Indeed, it's illegal to consider marital status and similar factors when hiring.

Their tactics seem similar to those used by Scientology and similar cults. A coordinated effort to intimidate, brainwash and drain bank accounts.

Sadly, I suspect they'll carry on without incident. A simple name change (something they've already gone through at least once) will, as jeversol suggests, provide them with a clean slate.

Ultimately it's up to us to see through the bullshit and protect ourselves. I say that having been the victim of a scam (albeit on a smaller scale) myself.
posted by aladfar at 9:38 AM on April 12, 2007

Note that the webmaster for the JL Kirk site is Captain Jack, whom we met before.
posted by oxonium at 9:50 AM on April 12, 2007

If you're interested the firm that I had a brief encounter with is mentioned here many times in the Rip off report WARNING: Hideously ugly site. The stories were eerily similar to mine, which is why I opted to run away as fast as I could.
posted by psmealey at 10:16 AM on April 12, 2007

I blame all this on Imus
posted by Postroad at 10:27 AM on April 12, 2007

Real executive search agencies get paid by the hiring company, and only when the hire is final.

That was my first reaction to this story: WTF? Up-front money?

Robert Half hired me many years ago for a short amount of time while I was unemployed. They placed me at 2 different jobs. At the first one, the employer really liked me, but didn't want to hork up Half's fee, which is particularly gruesome.

At the second, my employer signed the agreement to hire me on, and then didn't pay his bill to Half. When the agent at RH complained, and started talking lawyers and whatnot, my employer paid part of the bill, and then I witnessed the greatest conversation on the phone: "What's left? 30,000? You're kidding, right? I'll pay you 7 grand today, and let's call it even. No, it's 7k or nothing, and you can see me in court." ...this went on for another 30 minutes, my boss completely controlling the converstaion. When it was done, he paid them 3500 over the phone, and then sent them a check for 3500 the next day. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't honor the check.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2007

any outfit that charges a jobseeker an upfront fee is a scam.

a requirement of bringing my spouse/significant other is an immediate dealkiller.

if you and your spouse/significant other are ever left alone in a room together under the circumstances cited in the original blog post, you can bet your ass your conversation is being monitored.

jl kirk and associates sounds like a sleazy outfit. i'll get back to you if they sue me (if i can get around the self-link rule).
posted by bruce at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2007

4400 bucks to find a job? i can't believe that they get people to fall for that.
posted by lester at 10:38 AM on April 12, 2007

i can't believe that they get people to fall for that

I think in people's defense, being out of a job or vastly underemployed over a long period of time can cause you to be desperate, cloud you judgement, willing to go with anyone that can promise you some hope.

These scumbags thrive on victimizing people at their lowest moment.

Caveat emptor should always be the prevailing notion, but I can certainly understand how someone gets to a point where they're willing to overlook all the red flags and common sense and fork over that kind of money for empty promises.
posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You've just made the Internet mad. Don't do that.
posted by scalefree at 10:41 AM on April 12, 2007 [6 favorites]

if I do not take down the blog entries they will contact my Internet Service Provider, Comcast, to have my internet access shut down.

Her blog is on What would be the point of shutting off her cable Internet? Stupid lawyers. Bad dog, no biscuit.
posted by scalefree at 10:45 AM on April 12, 2007

4400 bucks to find a job? i can't believe that they get people to fall for that.

I can. My dad had to deal with that with job-search firms before the Internet, and so have I.

I've dealt with employment firms before that wanted me to pay a fee. I've warned them I will only consider job offers through them in which the employer agrees up front to pay the fee -- they're not getting a dime from me. Some are willing to look on that basis and some aren't, but nobody ever had balls enough to ask for my credit card.

And if they'd told me to have my wife accompany me, I'd've laughed at them and told them they were clearly discriminating on the basis of having a SO or not, and and that I was calling the producers at 60 Minutes to come investigate them. But 'blogging is so much better.

On second thought, it might be fun to just grab a barfly from the sports bar where I drink sometimes. "Yeah, this is Fred. He's my significant other. You gotta problem wit' that?"
posted by pax digita at 10:56 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Even the 'legitimate' agencies (you know the ones that charge the employer) are skanky hos. We used to sit in a sales bullpen and when the headhunters would call and tell me how wonderful I was and how they had just the right job for me etc. As soon as they hung up, the phone would ring at the next desk and the same skank would give the next salesperson the same spiel. left me feeling not so special. So finally one day I succumbed to their siren sounds and went down to the office and lo and behold in plain site was a "sales board" like you would find in the back room of a car dealership. All they wanted was warm bodies to show up for interviews. Complete waste of time.
posted by Gungho at 10:58 AM on April 12, 2007

From the JLK recruiter's response:

However, ONLY at the very highest levels of employment (CEO, President, COO, CFO, etc.) does the company actually PAY for the service.

Maybe that's been her particular experience -- in which case, boy, is she ever inexperienced! She ought to network more within her profession if she believes that's true. I know that money changes hands when contractors get hired within certain agreed-to durations as temp-to-hires, for example. I've alternated between FTE and contractor for over twenty years -- I wonder how long she has and whom she's placed, if she thinks she's right about that?

Not that it matters: I'm having some huge problems with this "bring your wife and show us your credit card" stuff -- that sounds really suspicious and I'd've walked at that point.
posted by pax digita at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2007

Dear Gungho,

As a legitimate agency, we find your use of scare quotes defamatory and insist that you immediately cease and desist calling us skanky hos on public sites. If you do not comply, we shall contact your internet host and cut off the necessary tube or series of tubes. If you then log on from a different computer, we will contact that host, if necessary until every host providing service to the internet is shut down.


EmploymEnt, Inc.
posted by goatdog at 11:57 AM on April 12, 2007

Sorry - not only do I get all of my jobs through recruitment agencies unless direct and my red flag alarm went up on the initial blog entry - but I worked first as an IT-guy for a small placement agency and a recruiter myself, and...

Having a candidate pay the fee? Scam. Every legitimate recruitment agency does employer-pay. Whether it's for salaried or contract candidates there is always an uplift.

She next tried to tell them that the employer-pay means less money? Not so, recruiters work on a percentage of the salary or an uplift on hourly - if the salary is lower, they make less money.

Then she requires a 'significant other' to be there for an interview? That is a blatantly discriminatory practice.

And - requiring that a fee be paid right away, by credit card? Scam.

No terms, guarantee's or reimbursement policies? Scam.

Look - there are some agencies which provide services like resume enhancement/review/retooling, interviewing skills, negiation workshops - those are mostly legit - but if any agency professes to charge you for finding a job - find another agency.

I also noticed that the 'matronly' representative made mention that the bloggers' husband was not 'gainfully employed'. Screw that - what year is this again? Freelance or contract work is definately considered 'gainful employment' by the government which still considers it taxable work.

Stupid shrew.
posted by jkaczor at 12:07 PM on April 12, 2007

the 'matronly' representative made mention that the bloggers' husband was not 'gainfully employed'.

That's a pretty pat technique that these bastards use to make applicants feel insecure about their desirability to future employers.

"Sez here you have had four employers in the last 10 years Mr. Smith. I read into that, as would any serious prospective employer, that you are real fuck-up job-hopper.

... But I think we can help you." /cheesy grin
posted by psmealey at 12:16 PM on April 12, 2007

If the place was JT Kirk and associates, that'd be a totally different story. I'd show them my credit card!
posted by stevil at 12:43 PM on April 12, 2007

God, am I glad I don't work for contracting agencies anymore... I had a good time with Robert Half's tech division for a while but when a company (who had wanted to buy me out and bring me on as a Real Employee before I got another job offer) let me go a week earlier than planned, my rep at Half didn't even bother to call and let me know. Showed up at work and... awk-ward!
posted by at 1:09 PM on April 12, 2007

No reputable company will ask to meet with you spouse or significant other. Indeed, it's illegal to consider marital status and similar factors when hiring.

I can think of a case. They want you. they've thrown you an offer. They've gotten the impression your spouse doesn't want to relocate. Then the, "why don't I arrange some tickets for you and the family to come out to and get a feel for the area" call is a strong possibility, followed by a lot of being shown around town and taken out to nice resteraunts.

I'd work for JT Kirk and associates only if I got to wear a blue or shirt.

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:18 PM on April 12, 2007

I bet 100 quatloos the matronly grandmother is now a redshirt at JT Kirk.
posted by zippy at 2:22 PM on April 12, 2007

this JL Kirk, he has Associates?
posted by quonsar at 2:38 PM on April 12, 2007

(klang's pop posting here) 25 years ago, after losing a job and having a hard time finding one, I went to Bernard Haldane & had much the same series of experiences as Ms. Coble, although my bullshit detector was buried in the red the whole way.

I have to say that when pressed, Haldane did weasel out of the position of job placement service. Using all the same phrases (the best jobs are never advertised etc.) they promoted themselves as a candidate-paid outplacement firm, and in fact, in the next several years after that Haldane enjoyed some success in s.e. Michigan as the auto firms were going through the same poor management right-sizing that they are "enjoying" now, and employer-sponsored outplacement was a new field then. Haldane got some auto firm contracts to work with middle management and execs who needed help dealing with all of the issues of reentering the job market.

I had worked for a smaller firm, though, so mine would be out of my own pocket. I passed and bought Dick Bolles What Color is Your Parachute which helped me do all of the things that Haldane wanted to charge me $thousands to do. Got a couple of OK jobs on my own, then got called by a real head hunter who found me a job for more than I could (at that time) dream of.

Real headhunters dp work on commission, but the good ones know that a satisfied client results in golden leads.

If Ms. Coble ever does get sued, I'd be glad to offer my experiences with Haldane--testifying to the same strong arm tactics 25 years ago. Should be easy to establish a pattern.

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled klangklangston)
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on April 12, 2007

well, i should have qualified my response. having been in an occasional job before where i had to scam people, it set off my detector immediately. the crap about bringing your 'significant other'? just a way of eliminating the 'i need to discuss this with my spouse' excuse.

i've been unemployed for a while now, since 2004, more or less. currently, i'm not working, and my unemployment is due to stop any day now. as part of my job search, i deal with recruiters and their promises all the time. if someone asked me to fork over any cash, even as low as $10 for a *credit check*, i am outta there.

the biggest scams i see is the 'resume rabbit', where you pay to have a resume faxed to a bunch of numbers. i also have noticed that the whole aspect of phishing has made it into the jobsearch field. since i posed a resume on a couple of bigger boards, i occasionally get an email touting some new job site--but upon closer review, just appears to be some kind of data harvester.

yeah, i know. maybe if i used capital letters i might get hired someday.
posted by lester at 4:37 PM on April 12, 2007

I'm sorry, I haven't read all the comments here, but allow me to say, I to was almost caught up in the FRAUD that JL Kirk operates on. The up front money tipped me off to run like hell. I am commenting mainly to say some of these thieves are good at it, they make a living scamming people. If your new to the job hunt and don't know the ropes, they put on a good show and I can understand how some people fall for it.
posted by BillsR100 at 5:10 PM on April 12, 2007

Monju_Bosatsu: In the lawyer's defense-and this is the only aspect in which I will come to his defense-lots of lawyers and courts actually call it "tortuous" interference, including recently the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:37 PM on April 12, 2007

It's not going to be a popular position to take, but I had a good experience with Bernard Haldane. They never promised anything more than they would teach me how to find a job. Yes, I probably should have picked those skills up in college but I didn't, and I got a lot out of the money I paid them.

They started with exercises to help "fine tune" the type of jobs I wanted, taught me how to best market myself to those jobs, prepare a targeted resume, how to interview, network, etc. At the end of the program, they gave me access to their client list and I contacted former BH clients in companies I was interested in and I had a job in a matter of weeks.

Yes, I paid ~$4k but they spent over 100 hours working with me and I'm pretty comfortable with that hourly rate. It's all my own fault for never going to career counseling in school (later I found out that the services offered at alma mater's career office weren't as complete as Bernard Haldane).

The reason they want you to bring your spouse is so he/she understands what the process is and be supportive. I didn't get any kind of hard-sell pressure tactics.

Of course, your mileage may vary. I had a good experience with my adviser and I didn't get a scary vibe from the BH office.
posted by jwest at 7:38 PM on April 12, 2007

Do a Google search on Katherine Coble! She is an angry, opinionated basher of many things

Yeah, and what's more she kicks puppies and sunshine!
posted by oxford blue at 6:31 AM on April 13, 2007

They never promised anything more than they would teach me how to find a job.

I can't really speak to your experience, and it's all well and good if you really got your money's worth out of them, but that's mostly a rarity. Such firms promise much more than teaching you how to find a job. The employ humiliation and high pressure sales tactics as the stick while using the carrot of vague promises of access to the Glengarry leads. They do all of this, in exchange for getting your money up front and hoping you crap out so they don't have to put any more effort into you.

If you all you really needed was a tutorial in job seeking and resume crafting, a lot of this information is available for free on-line or for cheap (in the Parachute book klang's father mentioned... the concept is cheesy but it is actually chock full of sound advice). Failing that, any half-way reputable local community college will offer extension courses on just this thing for significantly less than $5,000.

I maintain that even if you are somewhat happy with what you got, you still paid way too much for it, and further enabled a bunch of cheap shot artists to victimize more people down on their luck.
posted by psmealey at 6:50 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

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