“Your last name is perfect,” Lisa Smith, host of Big Blend Radio's “Writers and Authors” show, told Mt. Airy lawyer and author Margaret Klaw.
In a discussion of the attorney’s new novel, “Every Other Weekend,” Smith called Klaw’s name - otherwise spelled to mean to clutch, scratch and tear - fitting for a book about the complexities of divorce and child custody, written by a lawyer who fights battles in a courtroom.
Klaw, whose book was released May 23, will discuss the novel at 7 p.m. June 15, at booked, 8511 Germantown Avenue.
In the novel, eight years in the making, Klaw uses her decades of professional experience to create an engaging and darkly humored multi-perspective look at one family’s journey through divorce and custody. The neighborhood where the book takes place is called “Greenwood,” based on West Mount Airy, where Klaw has lived for 30 years. It features many real local sites, such as High Point Café, Weavers Way Co-op, a yoga studio, dog park, and a Quaker-adjacent elementary school.
“I am an unabashed ambassador for Mt. Airy,” Klaw said last week in an interview with the Local. “Even though I grew up in New York City and love it with all my heart, moving here was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Klaw is a founding partner of BKW Family Law, LLC (formerly Berner Klaw & Watson), a women-owned family law firm in Center City with seven attorneys, all women. (They have had male associates and law clerks, however, and two of their long-time support staff are men.) Named by Martindale-Hubbell, which publishes a directory of lawyers all over the country, as a “Preeminent Woman Lawyer,” Klaw was formerly an adjunct professor of family law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and formerly blogged for the Huffington Post and DailyWorth.com.
Although “Every Other Weekend” is Klaw's first novel, she previously authored “Keeping it Civil: The Case of the Pre-Nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer,” a series of vignettes about Klaw's actual cases, based on a blog she started in 2010 called “Family Law Unraveled.”
“After I mined the best material from my blog for that book,” she said, “I sort of ran out of steam to keep blogging, and that’s when I decided to try writing a novel.”
If it could be argued that Klaw makes beautiful music in a courtroom (figuratively speaking), it could be because she started playing the violin when she was 8 and after high school went to the conservatory at Oberlin College in Ohio for one year. She then transferred to the conservatory at Boston University to study with a teacher who had previously mentored her.
“I was miserable, though, in music school,” she told us. “It was hyper-competitive, way more so than law school turned out to be, and I literally was spending five or six hours a day in a practice room. The joy of music took a far back seat to trying to attain a higher level of technical skill, which I just found to be a mind-numbing process. I changed conservatories because I thought studying with my former teacher would make it better, and while it was better in that I liked my lessons instead of dreading them, I still really did not enjoy music school. I started taking academic classes at B.U. … After that, I just started taking more and more academic classes, transferred out of the conservatory to the regular college and ended up majoring in political science.”
After college, Klaw got a job as a counselor at a domestic violence shelter, and she considered becoming a social worker, but when she accompanied a resident to court to get a restraining order (her first time in a courtroom) and watched a law student advocate stand up and speak to the judge, she knew instantly that was what she wanted to do. “Becoming a lawyer combined my love of performance — a trial is very much like a play — with my intellectual interest in women’s rights in particular and, it turned out, family law in general.”
You might say that so far, Klaw's new novel seems to be raising the bar. According to Jasmin Darznik, New York Times bestselling author of “The Bohemian,” “'Every Other Weekend' is a fast-paced, vividly imagined and utterly absorbing novel.”
Klaw's husband, Alan Metcalfe, is an architect whose best-known local project is the tree canopy walk at the Morris Arboretum known as “Out on a Limb.” More recently his firm, Metcalfe, did significant renovations at Settlement Music School’s Germantown campus, designed a new building and campus for Wissahickon Charter School and is currently doing a master plan and major renovation for Mount Saint Joseph Academy. Their children went to the C.W. Henry School in Mt. Airy.
For more information, visit margaretklaw.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com