When you think of a document drafted by an attorney, what do expect? Crisp, clean prose that conveys its meaning in as few words as possible? Probably not. Large walls of incomprehensible text that no one (maybe not even the lawyer) has read carefully? Sounds more like it.

In the legal profession we refer to these regularly used blocks of text as “boilerplate” language (although boilerplate can also refer to blocks of frequently used computer code). The term boilerplate comes from the similarity between the curved steel used to make boilers and the curved plates that printed newspapers in the early 1900s. Boilerplate legal language often covers repeatedly used topics like the court where disputes will be resolved  or indicating that an agreement may be signed electronically. Continue Reading Boilerplate Language – What is it Good For? (Absolutely somethin’?)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued an updated version of its Endorsement Guides, which includes important information about the FTC’s current thoughts on when and how material connections between brands and endorsers should be disclosed.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed some background information about the theory behind FTC rules and endorsements and summarized some of the key points from the FTC’s guidance on when disclosures should be made. Below is a discussion of a few key points from the Endorsement Guides about how disclosures should be made online. Continue Reading Marketers and Influencers: How Should You Make Disclosures Online?

For entrepreneurs in states that permit state equity crowdfunding, effective today, a change in federal rules will allow those states to allow entrepreneurs to use social media to solicit out of state residents to raise money for their business ventures. This article posted on LancasterOnline describes the impact of the law change on businesses raising money pursuant to state crowdfunding laws: Law change could boost little-used state crowdfunding laws.

Previously, social media solicitation was prohibited. The revised rules are 17 CFR Sections 230.147 and 230.147A and can be found at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s website.

Pennsylvania does not currently have a state crowdfunding law, but Pennsylvania residents and businesses could be impacted by this change if they are solicited by out of state companies raising capital for their ventures. Since May 2016, Pennsylvania businesses may utilize federal crowdfunding laws to offer equity in their companies. Continue Reading Federal Rule Changes Impacting Equity Crowdfunding and Social Media Use Go Into Effect Today

This is Part 1 of a series of posts analyzing the legal issues in the hit podcast S-Town, produced by the creators of Serial and This American Life. For more background, check out the introduction to the series. Although the events in S-Town occur in Alabama, for the purposes of this series, the legal analysis will be based on general principles of law and Pennsylvania law, since we’re Pennsylvania lawyers.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t listened to the series yet and want to avoid spoilers, proceed beyond this point with caution.

Chapters 1 and 2 of S-Town focus on what brought narrator/reporter Brian Reed to rural Alabama: John B. McLemore contacts Reed with a rumor that there may have been a murder committed by the son of a wealthy, well-connected business man in town. The son’s name is Kabrahm. The rumor mill is in high gear, and there are reports of a cover-up by local police and that Kabrahm is a brazen alleged killer who is said to be bragging about killing another man in a fight.

John goes into great detail about the rumors that he’s heard, and by talking publicly about the accusations, would Kabrahm have any legal recourse against John?

While this issue is not explored by the podcast, it provides an interesting case study for the law of defamation. Defamation is defined as the action of damaging the good reputation of someone, and includes libel and slander. Libel is when the action is in writing or another print medium, and slander is when the damaging action is verbal. People often get libel and slander confused – a simple device that I used in law school to keep them straight is that slander is spoken. Continue Reading Legal Lessons from Hit Podcast, S-Town – Part 1: Defamation

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of podcasts. At any given time, my Overcast queue is full of episodes covering a variety of topics, including tech, productivity, true crime, law and music. I also write about them from time to time – check out my posts Podcasts and the Law and The Law According to Planet Money.

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about a new podcast called S-Town, which is the latest series from the creators of public radio/podcast giant This American Life and the hugely popular podcast Serial.

So what is S-Town about? The show’s website introduces it this way: “John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.” Continue Reading Legal Lessons from Hit Podcast, S-Town – Introduction

Confession: my introduction to the legal profession started at a relatively young age, reading the popular novels by John Grisham. Of course, just like the Hollywood depictions of legal practice, Grisham’s books didn’t exactly give an accurate portrayal of the day-to-day duties of a lawyer. Fortunately for me, though my interest was piqued by those books, I quickly learned that other skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving, would be essential to my success as an attorney. I also learned that the best way to develop those skills is through reading and legal writing, which occupies the majority of my time in law practice. Continue Reading Legal Documents and Avoiding Costly Mistakes

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?

Continue Reading To sue or not to sue: that is NOT the question.

We’re trying something new on the Lancaster Law Blog – from time to time we’ll post roundups highlighting some of our content on a particular topic. In this inaugural roundup post, I’ll focus on a few issues that we’ve covered that apply to small businesses. If you have an idea for a roundup or just a topic you’d like to hear more about, feel free to contact us.

You’ve Formed a Business Entity – Now What? Silos and Piercing the Corporate Veil

Warning – this post is a unique blend of Lancaster County with a solid analogy between silos and the role of your business entity in protecting your personal assets. Learn more about what you need to do after creating your business to make sure you maintain the limited liability protection it was created for. Continue Reading Roundup: Legal Issues for Small Business

Aaron Marines was a recent contributor to the January/February 2017 issue of Community Assets bi-monthly magazine for the Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapter of Community Associations Institute.

“Associations are often faced with the question of whether they need to ignore their dog rules for an “emotional support animal.”  Many boards are surprised to learn that they DO NOT need to alter pet rules…”

If you are a member of Community Associations Institute, you can read the full article in print or online.  You may also wish to learn more about other issues relating to Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations by reviewing some of Aaron’s blog posts on the Lancaster Law Blog.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Commercial and Residential Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.