"I - err - didn't know how you liked your coffee, so I brought it black," I said, gesturing to the accompaniments in the ceramic holder. I stood up and slid the coffee cup towards him, until it was in easy reach.
"Just light cream and Equal, " he said, standing up and grabbing the creamer box and flipping through it.
See, that's what is difficult for me. Light cream and Equal - what defines "light"? I watched him closely, noting how much he added of each to the cup. He looked at the color of the coffee a moment longer than what I would term as normal, and then, dismissing whatever thought was in his head, brought the cup to his mouth.
Gag would be too strong of a word for what happened next. Involuntary wince, perhaps? His blink was a bit forced, his mouth curled into an unpleasant motion and there was a slight shuddering motion that he tried hard to cover. An involuntary giggle popped out and I slapped a hand over my mouth. He looked at me in confusion, trying to figure out if I was trying to play a joke on him. His expression looked somewhere between mad and amused.
"I'm sorry," I gasped, fighting the ridiculous hiccupping laugh that was fighting tooth and nail to come out. "I don't drink coffee, I've never made coffee, I was stumbling through trying to figure it out when someone downstairs was kind enough to show me how…” my voice trailed off as my giggle urge left and I felt despair instead creeping in. "Is it…. horrible?" I whispered.
"A little," Broward admitted, a wry smile coming to his lips. "But, no worries. I will have Shelia walk you through it tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I need a file couriered over from Rothsfield & Merchant. Could you stop by Starbucks on the way back?"
I nodded rapidly, some relief merging its way back into my conscience. He didn't seem mad. Yes, I had looked inept, but it seemed to be okay.
"If you prefer," I ventured, "I think Mr. De Luca had some breakfast delivered. I could grab some coffee from their conference room?"
His face darkened. Okay... maybe not something he'd prefer. Did I say something wrong?
"No, he said sharply. "Brad orders that for his secretaries, intern, and his clients. We don't mess with, or borrow from his staff, and I expect the same from him." His glowering tone softened slightly at my pale face. "Sorry, " he muttered. "Maybe now is when I should go through the office background." He stood, shut the open file on his desk, and pressed the call button for Shelia, his secretary. Why wasn't Shelia getting his coffee? That seemed a secretarial duty.
"Yes, Mr. Broward?" a delicate, professional voice sounded through the speakerphone.
"I will be indisposed for the next…10 minutes. Please hold my calls."
"Yes sir, Mr. Broward."
Broward sat down, leaned back in his chair and tapped his finger to his chin, mulling something over while looking at me. I fought the urge to fidget.
"Okay, to begin - let's attack the elephant in the room." He leaned forward and met my gaze firmly - his almost stern gaze reminding me of when my father used to lecture me on the importance of high school English. What elephant in the room? Is this about the coffee?
"Brad De Luca, " he began. "Brad is, without a doubt, the best divorce attorney in the South. His waiting list is over 10 months long, and many unhappy wives prolong a marriage for the sole reason of waiting to have Brad represent them." His voice was matter of fact and slightly wry. "Brad is a shark in the courtroom and has no problem splattering the walls with blood. He also takes very, very good care of his clients." His tone and expression lead me to believe that "taking care" of his clients might mean a little more than one would think. I nodded to indicate that I got the point.
"You will no doubt notice the daily breakfast platters, be invited on the Bahamas work weekends, and hear the drone of excessive and unnecessary celebrations going on in that wing of this floor." His stern gaze moved up in intensity to level 6. "Julia, I don't want you to have any part of that. Brad runs his part of the office that way; I run mine in a more… professional and efficient manner. There is a reason that you were not assigned to Brad. Stay away from him." The approachable, friendly Broward was gone. In his chair sat a stern dictator speaking to me in the manner one might use on a bad puppy.
I was contrite and didn't even know why. "Yes, sir." I said firmly but quietly.
"Great," he said briskly. "Now, moving on to the other partner. Hugo Clarke."
"Clarke focuses on criminal law - his clients are mostly white-collar, though if a case has enough publicity, he will take on the bloodier cases. He is a great source of knowledge, and is always happy to help our interns. He has a young grandson who often spends time here at the office - if you see a 2-year old wandering around, that would be Clarke's."
I waited for another death glare and warning that Clarke sells black market organs, but Broward seemed to be off his soapbox and now seemed almost jovial. Good Lord, it's like dealing with a menopausal woman.
"I focus almost entirely on corporate law - all civil matters. Our work has a lot less emotion involved, but is exciting all the same." Right. Every law student can’t wait to dive into corporate reform.
Broward skimmed over the other attorneys, reviewed the billing procedures, and his general expectations. They all seemed reasonable, though I suspected his general reference to my expected 60-hour weeks would probably be more of a 70 or 80-hour commitment. He signified the end of our conversation by pressing Shelia's extension on his phone.
"Yes sir?" Her melodious voice came through the speakerphone.
"Please give Julia a tour of the office, apparently Jane didn't do a proper job in orientation. Also, she will be running over to Rothsfield to get the Danko file, so please explain the mileage system and petty cash."
Sheila appeared in Broward's doorway within seconds. She matched her polished voice - an older woman, in her 60s, with a blue sweater set and gray wool dress pants, perfectly coiffed silver hair, and a string of pearls. She smiled kindly at me, and ushered me out of Broward's office, closely his door softly behind her.
Shelia's tour of the floor was in depth and informative. I met over 12 secretaries, 6 paralegals, and Attorney Liz Renfield. I nodded at the other interns as we passed through their areas, but didn't have any conversations. I figured out early why Sheila didn't bring Broward's coffee. Handing me the petty cash key, there was an extreme shake of her hands. She was a talker, and I learned as much about her as the firm. She had been there 22 years, when it was just Clarke Law Firm, and they had to occasionally miss a paycheck if it had been a slow month. She had 4 grandchildren, all "babies", and out of all of the partners she liked Broward best, "most likely because he reminded her of her son, Frankie". By the end of the tour I had learned that Liz Renfield and Robert Handler had once shared more than a case, and that recently Chris Hemming, a civil attorney, had been caught embezzling funds and been fired.