About Joni

This year, I will be focusing on the administrative/operations aspect of running a successful boutique family law firm and developing plans to provide ADR (alternative dispute resolution) options on a flat-fee or otherwise reduced cost basis. I love my role as the WOW (Wise Old[er] Woman) of Berner Klaw & Watson.

I became a lawyer because I like helping people resolve their differences.  Although I practiced family law with a large Center City firm early in my career, I went out on my own in 1988 and never looked back. I founded our firm on the principle of providing superior service at reasonable rates for our clients while providing a flexible and supportive work environment for our employees. For thirty years and counting, we are proud to have maintained this model. While handling many custody, divorce, protection from abuse and support trials throughout my career, I no longer litigate (go to court). My practice now focuses on peaceful resolution through collaborative law and mediation, and working with individuals on limited scope engagements. I am also available for advice and strategic planning for a client whose situation demands litigation and will supervise a BKW associate who handles day-to-day matters and courtroom appearances.


Villanova University School of Law
Villanova, PA
J.D. 1978

Cedar Crest College
Allentown, PA
Self-designed B.A. in political science and international affairs 1975

American University
Washington, D.C.
International Politics Program 1973

Bar Admissions

United States Supreme Court

United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals


Work Experience

Berner Klaw & Watson LLP/Berner & Klaw
Philadelphia, PA 1994-Present

Founding partner. Practice includes counseling clients in all aspects of family law, divorce and custody mediation and arbitration, small business mediation and collaborative family law.

Law Offices of Joni J. Berner
Philadelphia, PA 1987-1993

Founder. Practice originally included some personal injury matters and simple estate planning for same-sex couples, but ultimately consisted of all areas of family law.

Women’s Law Project
Philadelphia, PA 1987-1989

Managing attorney of “Philadelphia Child Support Project,” a multi-faceted effort to assist unrepresented parties in navigating the child support system in Philadelphia.

Blank Rome
Philadelphia, PA 1978-1986

Associate in the Litigation Department with eventual assignment to the plaintiff asbestos group and family law group.

City of Philadelphia Law Department
Philadelphia, PA 1980-1981

Trial attorney, handling claims against the city for alleged personal injuries, property damage and civil rights violations.

Juvenile Law Center
Philadelphia, PA 1976-1978


Bar Association Activities

Member, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Family Law Section (current)

    Pennsylvania Bar Association Activities

  • Member, Collaborative Law Committee (current)
    • Law Schools Liaison (current)
  • Council Member, Family Law Section

Member, Delaware County Bar Association, Family Law Section (current)

Member, Philadelphia Bar Association, Family Law Section (current)

    Philadelphia Bar Association Activities

  • Member (and past co-chair), Lawyer Referral & Information Service Committee (current)
  • Chair, Family Law Section’s Web Page Coordinator Committee
  • Co-Chair, Solo and Small Firm Management Committee
  • Member/Family Law Section representative, Board of Governors
  • Member, Judicial Selection Committee
  • Chair, Family Law Section
  • Officer, Family Law Section

Lectures / Trainings / Consulting

Villanova University School of Law, Adjunct Professor

Temple University, Beasley School of Law, Adjunct Professor

Peirce College, Adjunct Professor, Family Law

Co-Panelist, Business Aspects of Law
Villanova University, Charles Widger School of Law

Co-Panelist, Women in Law on the Frontlines of Change
Philadelphia Business Journal

Co-Panelist, Considerations Before Starting Your Own Solo Practice or Small Firm
Philadelphia Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division

Co-Panelist, Alternate Dispute Resolution in Family Law
Family Law Society, Villanova University School of Law

Co-Presenter, Developing a Collaborative Process for Pro Bono or Modest Means Cases
Pennsylvania Bar Association, Collaborative Law Committee

Co-Presenter, Avoiding Malpractice with Technology 
Philadelphia Bar Association

The Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University

Collaborative Family Law Affiliates’ Divorce Training

The Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University

Habitat for Humanity

American Bar Association Pro Bono Conference

Economics of Justice Conference

Temple University School of Law

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Pennsylvania Bar Institute Continuing Legal Education

Family Law Institute, Fundamentals of Family Law, Family Law Updates, Philadelphia Domestic Relations Practice, Family Law Potpourri, Drafting Marital Settlement Agreements, Immigration Law for Family Lawyers, Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Matters, Advanced Equitable Distribution Issues, “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit,” Primer on Family Law, General Practitioner’s Update, Government Intervention in Parenting Decisions

Pennsylvania Psychological Association

Villanova University School of Law

New York City Chapter, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program

American Bar Association, Family Law Section, Domestic Violence Committee

Widener School of Law

Half Moon LLC, Pennsylvania Family Law Practice for Paralegals

Temple University School of Law

New World Radio

Radio Times on NPR


Unbundled Legal Services
Joni Berner, Jean Biesecker, Mary Timpany, Zanita Zacks-Gabriel
Pennsylvania Bar Association (Quarterly, April 2019)

Transforming a Family Law Practice to a Peacemaking Practice
The Legal Intelligencer (Family Law Supplement, July 2018)

A ‘See You in Court’ Mentality May Stifle Good Lawyering
The Legal Intelligencer (online Family Law column, June 2017)

Perspectives on Building a Women-Owned Law Firm
Joni Berner, Margaret Klaw, Megan Watson
The Legal Intelligencer (Women in the Profession Supplement, April 2014)

Reflections on My First IACP Conference
Pennsylvania Bar Association, Collaborative Law Committee (Fall 2013)

Training the Next Generation of Family Law Attorneys
The Legal Intelligencer (online Family Law column, April 2013)

Prenuptial Agreements (Chapter)
The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice: A Lawyer’s Handbook
Joni J. Berner, Margaret Klaw
American Bar Association (1996, 2004)


Women in Law:  Those who made a big move share the lessons learned
John George
Philadelphia Business Journal (June 2018)

Emerging Icons:  Recognized as having ‘the potential to become legends’
Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer (November 2016)

Follow Rules With Funds, Avoid Discipline
Nicole Edwards
Philadelphia Bar Reporter (June 2011)

Two Philadelphia Law Firms . . . to Receive Prestigious Philadelphia Bar Foundation Awards
Philadelphia Bar Association (November 2009)

Boards / Memberships / Community Service

Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, Cedar Crest College (current)

Vice President, Radnor Fire Company (current)

Member, International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (current)

Member, Collaborative Law Affiliates of Southeastern Pennsylvania (current)

Arbitrator, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (current)

Volunteer, Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (current)

Mediator, USPS REDRESS (Postal Service Employee Mediation Program) (current)

Volunteer, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Volunteer Mediation Program

Board Member and Past President (2013-14), Villanova University School of Law Alumnae Advisory Board

Board Member and Past President (2012), Women’s Therapy Center of Philadelphia (now Therapy Center of Philadelphia)

Board Member, Good Shepherd Mediation Program

Board Member, Women’s Law Project; Founding Member, Myra Bradwell Society

Chairperson, Family Mediation Association of Delaware Valley

Member, American Immigration Lawyers’ Association


Best Lawyers in America 2016-2020* (Collaborative Law & Family Law)
Best Lawyers®

Best Lawyers in America 2017-2020* (Family Law Mediation)
Best Lawyers®

Best Law Firms 2017-2020 (Berner Klaw & Watson LLP)
Philadelphia – Family Law & Family Law Mediation – Metropolitan Tier 1
U.S. News & World Report-Best Lawyers®

PA Super Lawyer 2012-2020**
Super Lawyers®, part of Thomson Reuters

AV Preeminent® 2018-2020***

Pro Bono Roll of Honor 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 (exemplary pro bono work)
First Judicial District of Pennsylvania

Business Integrity Award 2017 (Berner Klaw & Watson LLP)
Independence Business Alliance

Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses 2016-2020 (Berner Klaw & Watson LLP)
Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses 2013-2015
Philadelphia Business Journal

Brennan Award 2004, 2005 (Berner & Klaw); 2013-2015; 2017 (Berner Klaw & Watson LLP)
Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program

Top 25 Law Firms by Pro Bono Hours 2016-2017 (Berner Klaw & Watson LLP)
Philadelphia Business Journal

Inaugural Industry Icon Award – Legal 2016
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Client Choice – Boutique Family Law Firm of the Year in Pennsylvania 2016

Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers™, Inaugural Edition 2011

Citizens Bank Pro Bono Award 2009 (Berner, Klaw & Watson LLP)
Philadelphia Bar Foundation

Chancellor’s Award 2002 (Berner & Klaw)
Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program

Philadelphia Family-Friendly Award 2000 (Berner & Klaw)
Philadelphia Bar Association

*Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer review publication in the legal profession, partnering with U.S. News & World Report, the leading rankings publication in the U.S., to rank lawyers and law firms in the United States.

**Chosen by nominations from PA lawyers, research of periodicals, databases and interviews; all nominees’ background and experience are researched as well.

***Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence.