Claim: Paralegal for elite New York law firm produces memo rating the quality of local sushi restaurants.
Origins: Most of us working stiffs have, at one time or another, been asked to perform some menial task — a trivial and demeaning assignment outside the scope of our employment, foisted upon us to satisfy the
whim of a superior or a client. The usual response to being burdened with such petty duty is to express displeasure by griping, foot-dragging, and completing the odious chore with as little expenditure of effort as possible. Once in a while, however, an employee chooses to highlight his dissatisfaction with having been handed a belittling task through the opposite approach — by going far beyond the call of duty and fulfilling the obligation in outlandishly thorough and extravagant fashion.
The latter technique is the conceit behind the infamous "sushi memo," a document purportedly produced in July 2003 by a paralegal at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a top New York law firm, after one of the firm's partners, disappointed with the quality of takeout sushi in the area, asked her to find a better source for the popular Japanese bonnes bouches. The paralegal responded to the request with alacrity, interviewing co-workers, conducting on-line research, and scanning Zagat reviews to generate a three-page memo (entitled "Sushi Options") complete with footnotes and exhibits.
Was this memo a form of tacit protest by an underling disgruntled at being selected for a menial undertaking, or was it, in the words of the New York Times, an illustration of "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." Or was it perhaps simply a parody, something deliberately crafted as a joke to lampoon both these concepts? That's no easy question to answer, as the New York Times discovered:
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 only answer a spokesperson from the law firm would provide about the sushi memo was to deny that any client of the firm had been billed for the time spent in preparing it.
Whether or not the "sushi memo" is on the level, it's a wonderfully humorous effort deserving of enshrinement on these pages.
Last updated: 18 July 2007
Glater, Jonathan D. "Legal Research? Get Me Sushi, with Footnotes."
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
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