Photo of Brandon Harter

I have served on the Board of Directors of the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum for the past five years and have had the privilege of serving as Board President for the last two years. As you might imagine, I really enjoy this Lancaster County hidden gem, so as we prepare for Lancaster’s Extraordinary Give I thought it might be nice to share a few fun facts you might not know (even if you live down the street):
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Many technology enthusiasts subscribe to the theory that to appear on the cutting edge they need to always upgrade to the latest version. The latest software patch, the latest device, etc. I, on the other hand, have always felt like an upgrade needed to give me something (although when I do make a move I tend to spend more than your average bear doing so).
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When it comes to smart phones, Lancaster’s technology lawyers Matt Landis and Brandon Harter rarely agree on anything. Brandon wisely chooses the superior flexibility offered by Google’s Android environment, while Matt continues to dogmatically do only what someone in a long-sleeved black T-shirt and jeans tells him.

 In this post and in Matt’s counterpart, we managed to find some common ground: we can’t stand distracted driving. These posts will outline how features on an iPhone or an Android phone can reduce distractions and make the road a little bit safer for everyone.

 With the release of Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature as part of iOS 11, it is worth taking the time to remind everyone that Android apps have been helping us manage this for years. In a nutshell, the app prevents distracted driving by: (1) silencing your phone so you cannot see new text messages until you arrive; and (2) gives you the option to automatically reply that you’re driving and will get back to them when you arrive.
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In an era of ever expanding uses for our smart devices, we know that we rely to some extent upon cloud based services. (I almost said smartphones until I responded to a text on my Huawei Watch while typing that sentence). These come in many flavors such as software-as-a-service (SaaS or “sass”) platforms like Office 365 or Gmail or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS or “I don’t have any idea how to pronounce this so I call it i-a-a-s”) platforms like Amazon Web Services. But explaining the differences between these tools can be tough.
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Two of the most common complaints I hear as a litigation attorney are “why is it so expensive” and “why does it take so long.” Part of the answer to both questions are the procedural rules for discovery which often end up being both a blessing and a curse. The upside is that parties can fully investigate the factual basis for their claims. The downside is that the exploration comes at a cost of time and money.

To streamline the discovery process, many courts have adopted form interrogatories (i.e. written questions) and document requests for certain kinds of cases. For example, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has form discovery requests for use in premises liability and motor vehicle accident cases. These form requests avoid wrangling between the attorneys over whether a request is too broad. They can also be answered more quickly since attorney’s who expect the requests will tailor their intake forms and client questionnaires to get the information they know they will need for discovery.
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We trust our computers to handle our to-do lists and calendars because they never forget, right? While computers are good at remembering what we tell them (and a big thank you to Google for remembering my kids’ birthdays), one of the current weaknesses of artificial intelligence (AI) is that it cannot apply what it learns in a different scenario. For example, an AI that learns to play chess does not have a leg up when learning to play checkers. Essentially, computers have a “catastrophic forgetting” problem that forces them to relearn what they already knew just because they are presented with a new project.

Researchers are now making breakthroughs to overcome this ‘forgetfulness’ problem. Working in connection with neuroscientists, researchers are attempting to have AI learn more like humans so they can apply what they have learned in one context to another related context without starting over. In other words, teach computers to learn more like humans do so they stop forgetting what they already learned.
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I often hear at the outset of a case that one or both parties want to “stand on principle.” When it is my client who wants to do so, I am frequently asked whether we have a “good chance of winning” and, if so, they say they want to proceed. Sometimes they want to do so despite my warnings about the potential cost. Rather than merely deciding whether to sue based upon principle, in my opinion we should stop so we do not lose the forest for this particular, thorny and annoying tree.

In some cases, the fight is inevitable. The issue is too big, the stakes are the survival of a company, or parties just need someone (i.e. the court) to separate them. That said, there are often alternatives to a lawsuit. Rather than standing on “principle,” I encourage my clients to ask themselves:

  • What exactly do I want to accomplish? Can I get that from the court?
  • What do I think the other side wants to accomplish? Are these things I am willing to give up?
  • Should I fight here? Or learn from the situation and put myself in a better position next time?
  • Am I better off simply using the same resources to beat them in the marketplace?


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Last Thursday Matt Landis and I joined forces with Omega Systems to provide an update on managing cyber security to the Central PA Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. Here are a few of the latest cyber security threats:

  • Gmail phishing attack – A new evolution of the traditional phishing attack has recently been targeting Gmail users. Starting from a compromised Gmail account, the criminals send e-mails to their contacts, often with subject lines from real e-mails with that contact. When the user seeks to open the attachment in Gmail’s previewer, the user is prompted to confirm their credentials. DON’T DO IT. The convincing login box is actually a trap that will give the criminals access to your account. The criminals then quickly use your compromised account to continue the attack.


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