In Memoriam: My Friend Alan Schonberg

Editor’s note: Alan Schonberg, founder of MRI and a pioneer in search, died Friday. His obituary is here.

You’d pick up the phone and it would be Alan.

Just calling to see how you were doing. Always with some compliment. Some encouragement. Some wisdom. Always about you.

His favorite thing was introducing a trainer – or in my case – the “placement lawyer” to MRI.

He became so successful by helping others succeed. One at a time. Then tens of millions, really. Including you. The MRI/SC/OM5 managers, franchisees and their recruiters. The associates of the managers, franchisees and their recruiters. The business model and techniques of successful practitioners everywhere. The candidates they place around the world. The employers they staff globally. Alan’s many philanthropic causes.

Alan never changed in the half-century we walked and talked. Always the gracious gentleman who exuded class. The gentle giant who bent down and lovingly raised people up one at a time.

I remember once in the heat of a court battle I quipped, “There’s MRI and there’s everyone else.” He smiled, and that became his favorite private quote. He’d never say it publicly.

Alan didn’t care about the accolades, awards and adoration. He cared about the person in front of him. Genuinely. From the heart.

Toward the end, he said “Living to 85 ain’t that bad.” That’s the only time I ever disagreed with him. He deserved to live forever. He was that wonderful.

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Yes – Alan Schonberg lives on in the stories about his generosity and wisdom. In the lives of those tens of millions. Including you. So he wasn’t really a legend. He was legendary.

 When I started practicing law, Alan wrote me a letter. I framed it, but never hung it in our office. I was too embarrassed because I couldn’t possibly be the man he described. So I hung it in my study at home. At least I could try.

Alan didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear. He told you the truth. It was up to you to make it so. In that magical way, he didn’t just make you feel special. He made you special.

Magicians don’t really disappear.

Maybe Alan will call.

More than thirty-five years ago, Jeffrey G. Allen, J.D., C.P.C. turned a decade of recruiting and human resources management into the legal specialty of placement law. Since 1975, Jeff has collected more placement fees, litigated more trade secrets cases, and assisted more placement practitioners than anyone else. From individuals to multinational corporations in every phase of staffing, his name is synonymous with competent legal representation. Jeff holds four certifications in placement and is the author of 24 popular books in the career field, including bestsellers How to Turn an Interview into a Job, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book and the revolutionary Instant Interviews. As the world?s leading placement lawyer, Jeff?s experience includes: Thirty-five years of law practice specializing in representation of staffing businesses and practitioners; Author of ?The Allen Law?--the only placement information trade secrets law in the United States; Expert witness on employment and placement matters; Recruiter and staffing service office manager; Human resources manager for major employers; Certified Personnel Consultant, Certified Placement Counselor, Certified Employment Specialist and Certified Search Specialist designations; Cofounder of the national Certified Search Specialist program; Special Advisor to the American Employment Association; General Counsel to the California Association of Personnel Consultants (honorary lifetime membership conferred); Founder and Director of the National Placement Law Center; Recipient of the Staffing Industry Lifetime Achievement Award; Advisor to national, regional and state trade associations on legal, ethics and legislative matters; Author of The Placement Strategy Handbook, Placement Management, The National Placement Law Center Fee Collection Guide and The Best of Jeff Allen, published by Search Research Institute exclusively for the staffing industry; and Producer of the EMPLAW Audio Series on employment law matters. Email him at


2 Comments on “In Memoriam: My Friend Alan Schonberg

  1. I had the privilege of knowing Alan during my time at MRI and one of the most amazing things I will always remember was his ability to remember the names of everyone he met, no matter how long it was since he last saw them. He also remembered all the different things impacting their lives, when to call with a ‘word of wisdom’, when to listen and when to just be there for someone who was struggling. He cared about people which made him such a warm person and someone people wanted to have a chance to know and work alongside whether it was a charity function, business or just social. He was the ultimate networker in our business, the like of which so many of use would love to be. The recruitment industry has seen one of its truly bright lights extinguished this week, but he will remain with all those he touched, like the author, forever.

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