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?

Every year in November, we celebrate National Adoption Month. Given the fact that November is a time to give thanks, it has always seemed apropos that adoptions are celebrated during the same month as Thanksgiving. The fact that these two celebrations fall together just feels right, especially when considering adoptive families, without fail, will tell you how thankful they are for the child they have added to their family.

Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

The road to adoption can take on many forms and can be smooth sailing or a viable roller coaster ride. Families can adopt internationally, domestically, privately, through licensed adoptions agencies, local social service agencies and as a step-parent. For some families, the process, while important and at times filled with angst, goes smoothly. Everyone is in agreement, minimum time requirements are met, the cost associated with the adoption is what was expected and all parties involved feel that they would do it all over again given the chance.

Continue Reading Happy National Adoption Month

D. Scott EabyThe attorneys of Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP are pleased to welcome D. Scott Eaby to their expanding legal practice. He will serve new and existing clients from the firm’s branch office at 108 West Main Street in Ephrata. Scott has resided in Ephrata, Lancaster County all of his life, and has proudly served families and businesses in the Central Pennsylvania area since 1976, representing clients in diverse areas of law, from small claims court to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Scott’s legal practice has included real estate transactions, business formation, personal injury and many facets of family law.

Scott has recently focused his practice on estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He provides personal and effective counsel as clients prepare their estate plan to ensure their wishes are carried out and their beneficiaries’ interests are protected. Scott also guides executors, beneficiaries and family members through the probate and estate administration process, understanding that each client’s situation is unique and ensuring that everyone receives the personalized representation they deserve. Scott has teamed with Russell, Krafft & Gruber to provide additional resources and offer diversified legal services to all of his clients.

Scott received his undergraduate degree from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois. He served as a County appointed Divorce Master for 16 years and is a trained conflict resolution mediator.

Scott has been an active member of the Ephrata community, having served as President of both the Ephrata Rotary Club and the Board of Directors of the Ephrata Recreation Center. He has also served on the boards of several Ephrata organizations, including the former Ephrata Chamber of Commerce. He enjoys many outdoor activities including golf, hunting, fishing and snow skiing, and also traveling and spending time with his family. Scott and Jan, his wife of 42 years, are the proud parents of three children with two Colorado grandchildren.

One of the most common issues I am asked about is what a small business can do about online criticism. Here are five practical tips any business can use to help manage their online reputation.

  1. Know What is Being Said About You

To effectively manage your online reputation, you need to know what is being said about your business. Keep an eye on the platforms that matter most to you. For a professional services business like mine, that means watching platforms like LinkedIn. But for other businesses Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon might be more important. And almost every business benefits from keeping an eye on Google’s reviews.

And try to keep an eye on what is being said in the news because many online newspapers allow comments to be posted after articles. We use Google Alerts to get automatic email notifications when our firm or attorneys are mentioned online.

  1. Respond, But Remember You Cannot Argue with Crazy

It is important not to ignore online criticism. But you also cannot argue with a crazy customer. Remember that the primary purpose of responding to an online critique is not to resolve that customer’s situation (more on that below). The purpose is so the rest of the world reading the criticism can see you responded in an empathetic and respectful manner. Use some form of “we are sorry to hear you had a bad experience,” but do not use a stock response. Craft each response based upon the criticism leveled. That shows you are aware of the concern and care about it. Continue Reading Five Practical Tips for Responding to Online Criticism

In the age of HGTV and the ever-fluctuating real estate market, it can be difficult to reconcile how real estate is valued for purposes of divorce litigation versus what a homeowner believes their real estate is worth. Let’s face it, we all believe that our personal residences are probably worth more than they actually are because our homes are personal to us. We live there, we raise our children there, we take care to ensure that our homes are well maintained, decorated nicely, safe, located in a good school district, and so on. The care that we take to make our real estate a home, combined with the personal memories that are made there, often skew one’s perception of what real estate is worth.

For purposes of divorce litigation, the value of real estate is defined as its “fair market value” (FMV). What does fair market value mean? It is the amount a buyer is willing to pay on the open market without any requirement to buy. So how do you figure out FMV for your marital residence? For some, a value for marital real estate can be agreed upon because the parties are familiar with the real estate market in their area, there are comparable homes in and around the area in which their home is located and the parties are sophisticated enough to be reasonable about what their home would sell for. Others look to Zillow and other similar internet resources for value. I often caution my clients to ensure that any value they are agreeing upon, or that they are relying upon based on internet research, should have a second look either informally by a licensed real estate agent who can perform a Comparative Market Analysis, or through a real estate appraisal performed by a licensed real estate appraiser. Continue Reading My Marital Residence is Worth What?