Pro Bono

It was my first job out of law school, working as an intern at a Pro Bono law office in the city. The place was run by two women. The first, my direct boss, was pretty much the poster child for female fire iron. She was the kind of woman who thinks nothing of staring down a judge and telling them that they’re wrong about a point of law. If you look up ‘she-demon’ in the dictionary, she’ll be there smiling out at you in a pantsuit and sensible flats. Her partner wasn’t exactly like her. She won every case she ever saw, but she also showed up late a lot of days wearing a tracksuit and carrying a gym bag.

It was your average Tuesday, which meant new cases coming our way and I got to deal with the clients in the waiting area. Make coffee, translate what Mrs. Gonzalvez was saying about her landlord, try to pretend I didn’t know the meanings for some of those words because those should not ever be written in anything official. Stuff like that. That was the day that the young man walked in. He was thin and pale, his clothing ill-fitting and his hair roughly cut like he’d done it himself. When he spoke, his voice was higher than I’d expected and light.
“Excuse me, but…can you help me file…something? I don’t know what I need. I just need to get away from my parents and keep them away.”
And my boss was there before I could call her, gray eyes flashing and her stance like she was ready to put a spear clean through someone.
“I’m sure we can help you.” She glanced at me. “A pot of coffee and order a pizza. Feta, olive.”
“Of course, Ma’am.”
Her partner was talking to the woman in the corner with the two toddlers and the black eye. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but that wasn’t important right now. I placed the order with the pizza place on the corner and they said they’d bring it as soon as it was ready. I heard my name called and stepped into the back deposition room.
“Yes, Ma’am? Did you need something?”
The young man was sitting at the table, tears of relief on his face as my boss presented him with papers and options and plans.
“How’s the coffee?”
“Coming right up.”
“Good. Can you also pull an official change of name form and…” She paused, thinking. “And call my sister and see if she needs an extra counselor at the camp of hers.”

There was something about that office. It wasn’t just that we tried to help people, or that my bosses always won their cases. It was like the women who walked through the door left stronger no matter what. Like they had a glow of confidence about them.

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