www.FreeMPRE.com | Sushi Memo
The memo has footnotes. It has exhibits. It is crisp and professional and is
written on stationery of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, one of
New York's elite law firms. Indeed, it is the hottest law firm memo around town,
but it is not about
It is the sushi memo, and here is its story.
A Paul, Weiss partner, Kelley D. Parker, apparently received a subpar order of takeout sushi. So, according to the memo, she asked a paralegal to research local sushi restaurants. The paralegal took to the task aggressively, interviewing lawyers and staff members at the firm, reading online and ZagatSurvey reviews, and producing a three-page opus with eight footnotes and two exhibits (two sets of menus). The memo concludes by expressing the hope that Ms. Parker will now be able to choose "the restaurant from which your dinner will be ordered on a going-forward basis."
The memo was written more than three months ago, and its studiously formal language suggests it could be a parody. Regardless, it is making the rounds of New York law firms and Web sites like Gawker.com, circulated by associates and paralegals eager to expose what they see as the capricious and demanding behavior of partners. Some believe it illustrates the climate of a large law firm for many paralegals, who may feel compelled to give every assignment the single-minded vigor of a filing in a capital case, even if they are only helping to find some particularly fresh raw tuna.
"This is what people fear," said an associate at another law firm, speaking generally and anonymously out of fear of partner retribution. "It's some sense of arbitrary, dictatorial relationship that we all fear goes on between bosses and their underlings. People really do make people do these things."
Neither Ms. Parker nor Kimberly Arena, the paralegal, returned phone calls seeking comment. Jason Schaefer, a junior lawyer at the firm whose name is also on the memo, declined to comment and hung up the phone for emphasis. In fact, no one at Paul, Weiss, whose Midtown offices are surrounded by sushi restaurants, wanted to discuss the memo, making it hard to figure out if it is serious.
The memo is well sourced, repeatedly citing ZagatSurvey restaurant reviews. It seems to include useful information, claiming, for example, that Monday is the worst day to order sushi because fresh fish is usually delivered on Tuesday.
"This paralegal probably felt that it was very important for him or her to do as good a job on this assignment as on any other," said David Wilkins, director of the program on the legal profession at Harvard Law School.
"The real question," he added later, "is where did the paralegal bill his or her time?"
Law firms can charge more than $100 an hour for a paralegal's time, and paralegals generally must account for all their working hours. That means that either a client paid for the time it took to prepare the memo, or the billable hours spent on the memo were lost to the firm.
"The partners at the firm might have something to say about whether that was a very good use of the paralegal's time," Mr. Wilkins said.
While the law firm would not address any other questions about the memo, a spokeswoman did respond to this one. She said that no client of Paul, Weiss was billed for the time spent writing the sushi memo.