KEEPING IT CIVIL by Margaret Klaw


A Family Lawyer's Files on Love, Money, and Power
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A lawyer specializing in family law relates, with appropriate redactions, some unhappy war stories.

Many attorneys avoid cases involving family practice because it’s too emotionally demanding. Others, like Philadelphia lawyer Klaw, are less averse to the family fights, marital mayhem, late-night calls and all the high drama. The author, a wife and mother, deals professionally with such intimate, basic human concerns as love, heirlooms, money, acquisitions, money, sex, children and, of course, money. In daily practice, she may confront lying spouses, secure protection orders, counsel same-sex marriage partners or arrange for new birth certificates for transgendered clients. Family practice, it should be noted, is an evolving legal specialty. There have been titanic social and scientific changes in just a generation or two; evolving sexual mores and relations, as well as new reproductive technology, have outpaced the stately progress of the law. Klaw’s tilt is manifestly feminist, but she acknowledges the camaraderie among family-law practitioners. “We’re joined together through a common work life that can be difficult, emotionally intense, sometimes exhilarating, and sometimes thankless,” she writes. All lawyers, of course, enjoy reprising their courtroom adventures and recounting what they think are interesting “matters” (cases); Klaw, a regular blogger, is quite adept at anecdotal exposition of legal principles. Especially effective is her analysis, running sporadically throughout the book, of a representative custody trial. The conversational, entertaining text may sometimes sound more like Judge Judy than Learned Hand or Felix Frankfurter, but it is all informative and smart. (It may also enhance her total of well-deserved billable hours).

An accessible description of an intricate field of law, examined in an open-hearted style.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61620-239-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2013


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