When you think of a document drafted by an attorney, what do you 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?

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

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

Today on Facebook, a friend of mine posted about a nightmare experience she had with an Airbnb reservation. While traveling for business, she often relies on Airbnb short-term lodging rentals as an alternative to booking a hotel. “My host literally told me that there would be a string of guests with no one cleaning or changing sheets and towels between them. Also her landlord had just called her to tell her to stop Airbnbing her apartment.”

Airbnb and similar services such as HomeAway have become increasingly popular for providing short-term lodging in residential properties across the globe. These services don’t actually own property, they are marketplaces where “guests” search for various types of accommodations – for example, Airbnb offers entire houses or apartments, a private room, or even shared rooms with their “hosts.”

The above scenario is among the more tame examples of Airbnb horror stories that I’ve read. While the majority of my friends who have utilized the service have had great experiences, the Internet is rife with cautionary tales for hosts and guests alike, including guests trashing an apartment and these horror stories from Reddit.

Let’s get back to my friend’s situation above. Does the landlord have the right to prohibit their tenant from using Airbnb?
Continue Reading Airbnb for Landlords

According to Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation fame, “the three most useless jobs in the world are, in order, lawyer, congressman, and doctor.” While Ron Swanson may be my favorite television character of all time, I, of course, beg to differ with this assessment.

The above quote comes from Season 6 of Parks and Recreation, and the context is a discussion about the value of having a Will drafted by a lawyer. Ron proudly presents his Will which was handwritten by himself at age 8 on a yellow piece of notebook paper.

The Will states:

Upon my death, 

all of my belongings shall transfer 

to the man or

animal who has 

killed me. 

[several weird symbols that only the man who kills him will know] 

Ron Swanson

The burning question: would Ron’s Will be enforceable in Pennsylvania?
Continue Reading Is Ron Swanson’s Will Valid in Pennsylvania?

As of January 1, 2017, use and possession of devices that are capable of recording audio and video, including cell phones, is prohibited in certain Lancaster County court facilities, including the Lancaster County Courthouse located at 50 North Duke Street, Adult Probation and Parole offices located at 40 East King Street, the Domestic Relations lobby and offices and inside any Magisterial District Court office at the discretion of the Magisterial District Judge.

There are several exceptions with certain qualifications to the use and possession prohibitions discussed above, including exceptions for:

  • Employees of court facilities, provided the device must be in silent or vibrate only mode when entering a courtroom, hearing room or grand jury room.
  • Attorneys while on business representing a client, provided the device must be powered off when entering a courtroom, hearing room or grand jury room.
  • Emergency responders responding to a call.
  • Jurors during their period of service.
  • Use of such devices for purpose of presenting evidence in any court proceeding.
  • Law enforcement officers on business related to a case, provided the device is powered off when entering a courtroom, hearing room or grand jury room.

Continue Reading Cell Phones and Other Recording Equipment Banned From Lancaster County Court Facilities Effective January 1, 2017

There are a lot of misconceptions and different definitions for a Notary.  In drafting this blog post I found several different definitions, including one from Google that says a Notary is “a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up contracts, deeds, and other documents for use in other jurisdictions.”  Wikipedia says “[a] Notary is a lawyer (except most of the United States).”  Neither of these are true in Pennsylvania.  So what is a Notary?  Why do you want something notarized?
Continue Reading What is a Notary?

In 1996, I was a legislative research analyst in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives when the General Assembly enacted the statute specifically prohibiting the recognition of same sex marriages.  That statute provides as follows: 

It is hereby declared to the strong and longstanding public policy of this Commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman. A marriage between persons of the same sex which was entered into in another state or foreign jurisdiction, even if valid where entered into, shall be void in this Commonwealth.

I recall listening to the floor debate in my office on the day of the Bill’s final passage and discussing it with other staff members.  While I was not involved with the drafting or passage of the Bill, I very clearly recall the urgency among the elected members of the House to move the Bill quickly because there was a great fear that some judge in Hawaii could force the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to recognize a marriage between same sex couples. And so it passed, unremarkably, and moved to the Senate for final approval before enactment.

But Tuesday was a remarkable day for same sex couples in Pennsylvania who have been governed by that 1996 law.  Pursuant to Whitewood v. Wolf, 2014 WL 2058105 (U.S.M.D., May 20, 2014), the statute has been declared unconstitutional and same sex couples can now marry in Pennsylvania.  There are headlines in every newspaper and on-line media outlets and videos on the internet and the news.  There was a line at the Dauphin County courthouse yesterday morning when it opened of same sex couples wanting to apply for licenses. In Lancaster County, the first same sex couple to apply arrived at the Register of Wills office around 8:45 a.m.  It’s historical, no question, and it is now the law of the Commonwealth.  

Continue Reading You’ve Got Your Marriage License – Is That All You Need?