Keeping it Civil … book review

Keeping it Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and Porsche & Other True Accounts From the Files of a Family Lawyer

Earlier this summer I read this book by Margaret Klaw despite the unwieldy title.  Klaw is a family law attorney in Philadelphia.  She works at Berner Klaw & Watson, a small boutique law firm where she was a founding partner.  The firm limits itself to family law matters and is comprised of all women.  In her promo trailer, she says she hopes to “pull back the curtain of the headlines and reveal the emotional complexities of family law issues through the real stories of the people [she represents].”

I knew nothing about Klaw before reading this book and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The first part of the title sounded quite lawyerly, almost like it was cribbed from a continuing education seminar, especially the ones where a judge is the presenter.  But the second part of the title made it sound like old TV episode of Matlock promising mystery, drama and intrigue.  My modest hope is that Keeping it Civil would contain some interesting “war stories” from the family law courthouse that I could relate it.  Maybe I would learn something too.

As it turns out, Klaw’s book succeeded on this level.  I did relate to it.  If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be a family law lawyer, this is probably book I’ve seen on the topic to date.  Just keep in mind Klaw no doubt “cherry picked” her cases.  Although I find that nearly all my cases have some interesting aspects, the vast majority are much more routine than the ones she features in the book.  And, at times, family law issues can be very dry, at least for me.  For instance, I don’t get excited delving into the technical details of a QDRO.

Keeping it Civil was very entertaining, informative and thought provoking at the same time.  Klaw split the chapters between interesting family law topics and a detailed account of a high conflict custody trial presented in installments.  The format was a little jarring because the “hot topic” chapters (and clients) were completely unrelated to the chapters about the trial.  However, this was unavoidable unless Klaw split the material into two distinct books (a a reasonable alternative in my view).  Klaw’s writing is clear and not stuffy like some lawyers tend to be.  I believe Keeping it Civil is accessible both to other lawyers and the ordinary reader.  The author has an opinion on each topic but I didn’t feel she was overbearing or preachy.  It probably helps that I agreed with her most of the time.  Your mileage by vary in this regard.  The book is 272 pages and it went quick for me.  If you are a legal junkie and getting a behind the scenes look at a family law trial sounds fascinating, Keeping it Civil might even be a page turner for you!

Buy Keeping it Civil at Amazon here.  It’s available currently on Kindle and hardback.


Ms. Klaw has a blog called “Family Law Unraveled” here.  Recently she only posts occasionally.

August is Child Support Awareness Month

I’m a little late on this, but August is Child Support Awareness Month.  This program is now celebrated across the nation including California.  The slogan this year is “Your Support Shapes Their Future” – a reminder of the crucial role support plays in the development of our precious children. There’s a long list of related events, but most of them are in Southern California.  These include information fairs, workshops, license release programs and more.

I always encourage my clients to seek child support if they are entitled to it.  Children are expensive and I am a strong believer that both parents should contribute toward their living expenses. Don’t be embarrassed or shy to ask for it.  And don’t let the other parent stop you by using threats either (it’s more common than you think).

We can often combine an initial request (or modification) for child support with a custody and visitation motion to save attorney’s fees and minimize court hassle.  If you are unsure whether or not you would eligible, have questions about the process or curious how much you are likely to receive, we can talk about it and run the numbers easily at a consultation.  You might be surprised how much it can be!

August is Child Support Awarenesd Month

New Facts & Figures About Divorce


Here’s some new facts and figures about divorce gleaned from a new article by Dee Lee, a Certified Financial Planner. 

  • Each year in the USA, over 2 million people get married.  Nearly 50% of them will end in a Divorce.
  • 2nd marriages do not fare well.  Apparently experience isn’t much help in this area.  67% will end in a divorce.  For 3rd marriages, it gets even worse: 74% of them wind up in Splitsville.
  • The average age of first marriages that call it quits is 30.
  • New studies (which unfortunately are not cited in the article) indicate that children suffer much more trauma than originally thought after a divorce.  Yikes!
  • Family law is a $28 billion dollar industry each year.  Divorce lawyers in Massachusetts charge an average of $350 an hour.  This is in the same ballpark as Sacramento.  The “cottage industry” includes more than just attorneys: mediators, therapists, CPAs, court personnel, process servers, visitation supervisors, appraisers, authors, book publishers and more.
  • The cost of a divorce is about $20,000.  I recall reading years ago some ABA statistics that the average party in a divorce spends about $10,000 so this would be in agreement.  If a divorce is in your future, it is important to be realistic about the costs and plan for it.

If you have recently been through a divorce, how much was your attorney and what was the total bill? Were you satisfied or did you feel ripped off?  As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Source and further reading:  CBS Boston.  Photo credit by umjanedoan at Flickr (CC by 2.0).

One Week Left to Get 25% Off!

This is one week left to take advantage of the “Olympic Special” offer!  Right now, new family law clients who retain my services can receive 25% off my normal hourly rates.  The offer ends next Sunday at the close of the Olympic ceremonies.  Don’t miss your opportunity to save big, perhaps even $1000 or more!  Family law matters include divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, modifications, step-parent adoptions and more.

To set up a consultation, please contact me right away.  The fastest method is usually e-mail.  My e-mail address is  I can also be reached at (916)973-8288.

Hello world Redux! AKA Mike’s Legal Bytes has risen from the ashes!

Welcome to my new domain (!  I purchased it a long time ago but never had the opportunity to do anything with it until now.

I moved my (very old) blog from Xanga here and plan to resume posting on a regular basis.  I imagine many of you may not even know what Xanga is, but 10-15 years ago it was a fun and active blogging community.  Sadly, its popularity pretty much died like other once great sites such as Myspace, Hotbot and AltaVista (remember those?).

This new website and blog is a DYI web design project I hope to have fun with.  My “serious” website is located at  If you are a prospective client, please visit it for all the details about my law office.  It looks professional and is not “under construction.”  =)

Until next time …