Our firm regularly helps guide SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon’s clients as a part of their Simple Steps to Starting a Business workshop series. Last week was my turn participating in a panel discussion alongside a community lender, an accountant, an independent insurance broker, and a SCORE mentor. One of the key topics addressed by the panel was how to get the most out of a meeting with a professional for the first time.

The consensus of the panel’s recommendations was to be prepared. As an Eagle Scout, this was music to my ears, because “Be Prepared” is the Scout Motto. Regardless of whether you’ve completed 21 merit badges, “Be Prepared” is just a good concept to live by, and if you follow it, you’ll make the most out of your meeting or initial consultation with a lawyer.

Here’s how you can “be prepared” for your first meeting with an attorney:  Continue Reading How to Get the Most out of a Meeting With an Attorney

I have been thinking a lot lately about all of the new “holidays” that are being invented. While I am all for celebrating National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day and National Sibling Day, I am having a hard time keeping up. While scrolling through Facebook recently to catch up on all the cute baby pictures my friends have been posting, I saw a notice from the Facebook Privacy Team about “Data Privacy Day.” Turns out, Data Privacy Day is an annual event that occurs each year on January 28th.

This announcement from Facebook got me thinking about how private my online presence is across all of my personal accounts. Although I am very cautious about my social media privacy settings, only allowing my “friends” and approved followers to view my content, I am not so sure about how secure my other accounts really are. So, I decided, to go all in on celebrating Data Privacy Day. Continue Reading Something to Celebrate: Data Privacy Day!

I have gotten a number of questions recently related to the PA Skill games that are becoming more and more popular in bars, restaurants, and even convenience stores.  The questions I get are often concerning whether those games are legal and can lawfully be operated by a business owner, particularly if they hold a liquor license.

Recently, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement conducted an investigation and seized a number of games in the Central Pennsylvania area.  In justifying these seizures, they took the position that these machines constitute illegal gambling devices and were subject to seizure by the police. That action by the police led to concerns by restaurateurs and other holders of liquor licenses that they were going to get in trouble or have these machines seized by the police.

After these raids and seizures by the state Police, Pace-O-Matic, one of the manufacturers of these Pennsylvania skill games, challenged the State Police and sought an injunction from the courts to prevent the police from seizing any more of the games they manufacture. They argued that their games do not constitute illegal gambling devices, and base their position on a decision issued in 2014 by a Court of Common Pleas judge in Beaver County. In that decision, the judge concluded that because there is an element of skill involved in the Pace-O-Matic games, they do not constitute illegal gambling. That decision in 2014 led to the wide spread circulation and use of these machines, but has also spurned a lot of copycat machines. Pace-O-Matic was initially granted an injunction by the Court of Common Pleas preventing the state police from seizing any of the machines they manufacture until the issue could further be sorted out in court system. Continue Reading Pennsylvania Skill Games

One of my memories from childhood is watching my mother build and run her own business. I saw first hand how she lived the job, how seriously she took her responsibilities to her customers and employees, and how she never really stopped thinking about work. It was what she had to do to make the business successful. At the time, I didn’t always enjoy sitting at dinner and listening to my parents discuss the store finances or how to deal with a problem employee; however, I now realize that I was learning by just listening and it has helped inform my approach to working with small business owners and understanding what it takes to establish and maintain a successful business. I know how hard small business owners work. There can be so much focus on building the business and running it day to day that people often forget to address what happens when they no longer want to keep it going or can no longer work at the same pace. I don’t mean what happens when a business fails. What happens when a business succeeds? How do you transition it to the next owner? How do you protect the legacy you’ve worked hard to build? Continue Reading What happens when a business succeeds? Estate planning for business owners.

Lancaster County has a lot of multi-generational family businesses. You’ve probably seen countless articles like this one highlighting the “tsunami of change.” And if you’ve taken the time to read any of these articles, you’ve learned that the businesses that flourish in the second or third (or later) generations are successful largely because of the way they planned for the future. These succession plans have a number of things in common.

Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

Continue Reading Lessons Learned from Business Transition Planning

At the beginning of last year, I wrote one of my favorite posts about why getting a mentor should be your New Year’s resolution. In a nutshell, that article posited that we live in a world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, and one of the best ways to help you through it was to find a trusted advisor. In my view, an essential quality of a great mentor is knowing the limits of their expertise and working as a team with others to achieve the best result for the mentee.

This year I’ve decided to ditch the New Year’s resolution concept and implement a yearly theme, inspired by the Theme System. My 2020 theme is the Year of Teamwork. I want to focus on teamwork because I’ve found that the most rewarding relationships I’ve had are when I’ve been a part of a team, where there’s been give and take by each teammate, all working towards a common goal. These relationships lead to successful outcomes.

I’ve been part of teams for as long as I can remember: little league baseball, my Boy Scout Troop, lacrosse, my family, our firm. I’ve been a part of high performing teams, and teams that fell short of their potential. I think it’s always been my goal to be a good teammate, but sometimes it’s easy to lose focus of your individual role while you’re focusing on the bigger picture. Continue Reading The Year of Teamwork

The law firm of Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP has named Brandon S. Harter a Partner effective January 1, 2020.

Brandon uses an efficient, tech-savvy approach to provide quality legal counsel to his business, municipal, and individual clients. And for Brandon’s clients in the tech sector, his love of technology brings an additional level of understanding about the unique challenges they face.

Brandon’s practice regularly involves handling lawsuits in the Pennsylvania and federal courts. In those disputes, his eDiscovery knowledge provides an invaluable resource to improve his client’s chances of victory. Brandon also serves as a discovery master who is appointed by the Court to help other lawyers resolve their discovery disputes.

Outside the litigation arena, Brandon’s practice regularly includes reviewing contracts and providing advice on employment law and municipal law issues. Brandon’s unique experience and perspective are invaluable to his clients on privacy, data security, and social media issues that increasingly arise for both private businesses and public entities.

Continue Reading Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP has named Brandon S. Harter a Partner of the firm

In the past, I’ve written about why you should care about legal writing – it can help you avoid costly mistakes. Sometimes the entire legal effect of a document can hinge on something as seemingly inconsequential as a comma. Today’s post focuses on another simple tip, but one that could prevent fraud in various ways.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

As I mentioned in my last post, remembering to write ‘20’ instead of ‘19’ isn’t the only thing to think about in the new year. Perhaps I should have been more specific in my verbiage, as an easy opportunity for fraud coincides with the new year depending on how you typically write dates on agreements, checks, and other important documents.

Specifically, if you abbreviate the year when writing the date, such as 1/5/20, it provides the opportunity for someone to add two additional numbers to the end of the date to change the operative date. This could be used to try to cash an old check, establish an unpaid debt, or change the operative date in a contract, either forward or backward.

Our recommendation is to write the date one of these two ways: 1/5/2020 or January 5, 2020.

Matt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University Commonwealth School of Law and works regularly with business owners and entrepreneurs. Matt is one of the founding members of the RKG Tech Law Group.

Happy New Year from all of us at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP. As we ring in the new year, remembering to write 20 instead of 19 when writing the date isn’t the only change  to be mindful of. As of January 1, 2020, many new laws, rules, and policies have taken effect that may impact you and your business.

Here’s a summary of a few of the key changes and links to additional information for several legal changes to be mindful of in 2020:

IRS Updates Standard Mileage Rate

On December 31, the IRS announced its new standard mileage rate for 2020: 57.5 cents per mile driven for business use, down one half of a cent from the rate for 2019.

Photo by Mikhail Pavstyuk on Unsplash

US Department of Labor’s New Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule went into effect as of January 1, which updates the Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum salary thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, or professional employees from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The DOL estimates the changes will impact as many as 1.3 million employees. The change that will likely impact the most workers is raising the minimum salary requirement from $455 per week to $684 per week, or from $23,660 per year to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker. To learn more about the changes, check out the DOL’s press release on the final rule here. Continue Reading Legal Changes in 2020

During the holiday season we often hear the quintessential phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Well, for those of you out there considering adopting someone over the age of eighteen, yes, there is adult adoption.

In the state of Pennsylvania, anyone can adopt and anyone can be adopted if they are legally free for adoption. That is, if the proposed adoptee’s parental rights have been terminated or in the case of an adult, if notice is provided to the adult proposed adoptee’s biological parents, unless otherwise waived by court order. The process in a minor’s adoption is relatively simple. In fact, the Pennsylvania Adoption Statute is like a recipe book which contains each step necessary to finalize an adoption. However, when adopting an adult, two Pennsylvania statutes must be considered. First is the Adoption Statute and the second is the Name Change Statute. Continue Reading Adult Adoptions: Can I Really Adopt a Grownup?