Thomas-Kilmann’s Conflict Mode Instrument is Illustrated by “A Quiet Man”

The 1952 movie titled A Quiet Man stars John Wayne. In this – the pub scene – John Wayne’s character who has returned from America to Ireland to reclaim his family farm is analyzed by moving though the five conflict-handling modes identfied by Thomas-Kilmann.

These modes are designed on a two-dimensional scale in which, Thomas-Kilmann place cooperativeness on the x-axis and assertiveness on the y-axis. The results are specifically:

  • Avoiding = Uncooperative + Unassertive
  • Accommodating = Cooperative + Unassertive
  • Compromising = Somewhat Cooperative + Somewhat Assertive
  • Collaborating = Cooperative + Assertive; and
  • Competing = Uncooperative + Assertive.

Kilman Diagnostics is a website which indicates it is “Dedicated to Resolving Conflict
Throughout The World.” Check it out to find an assessment guide and to learn more about that purpose. As noted above, competition is not the only way to address conflict.What do you think?

Motivational Comments about Bartleby the Doc Reviewer

NW Lawyer’s issue this month has an article titled: With Kings and Counselors, Bartleby the Doc Reviewer. In it Garrett Oppenheim compares the modern day life of a document reviewer to Herman Melville’s 1853 tale “Bartleby the Scrivener”. [1]

To clarify for non-attorneys, a doc reviewer is a lawyer who helps to determine which documents are relevant during discovery. Its tedious, boring work which is not the highest and best use for any attorney. But, even though there are ways to funnel much of the work down now through eDiscovery, it is still essential for someone to do this type of work. 

That’s the point. It is work and it is something which needs to be done. Because of this it has value to both the person paying for its performance, ultimately the client, and the person performing it.

The fact that …

[L]ike every other attorney in Washington, document reviewers have undergone the rigors of a law school education and, upon graduation, studied for and passed the daunting challenge that is the bar exam.

is of absolutely no moment!

The supposition that …

Doc review attorneys have worked just as hard to get their licenses as their counterparts arguing at the Supreme Court, prosecuting capital murder cases, and teaching the next generation of lawyers at universities.

is not true.

Some lawyers, perhaps because they are just more gifted at research and writting, or had better family connections coming out of law school are very fortunate to have had some sort of assist to get them started on their career.

On the other hand, some people worked their heart out in law school and this is what got them ahead of others and on to law review where they had the privilege of determining whether a comma was errantly italicized or not. These people did the work there and in doing so proved that they could be trusted in law firms … and were able to get themselves hired.

The fact that there are document review attorneys “who attended Ivy Leagues and those who graduated magna cum laude” doesn’t diminish from these peoples accomplishments. But it sure as heck doesn’t give them an excuse to bemoan the fact that they aren’t doing exactly what they want to do.

It is all in the attitude of Bartleby which is his undoing. When asked to do anything, his reply is simply: “I would prefer not to.”

That is Bartleby’s folly. He allows his preference for inactivity to be declared and as he does this he beats himself further and further down. This is not a “fine” situation. [2]

Listen, I know all to well the feeling. I would suspect many people had it coming out of college … unless they just continued straight on to law school. It’s the false idea: “I’ve made it though school. I got good marks in a major that I’m going to use to light up the world.”

But, the world takes no notice of you. You have this sense that you are irrelevant, that you don’t matter, that your dream can not become reality. Well guess what … you are exactly right.

But, you are exactly right for the wrong reasons. It has nothing to do with what is “out there in the world.” It has everything to do with what you have “in here at your heart.”

  • Don’t let the world put you down. 
  • Don’t let yourself think that your dreams don’t count. 
  • Don’t ever think that the work that you do is beneath you.
  • Don’t worry about what you are now.
  • Don’t worry about what other people are thinking … I can guarantee you they have their own problems they are worried about.

Instead, your job is to plan the work of your future and then work yourself right into your future plan … and beyond.

What do you really want? Figure that out. Then figure out how you are going to get it. Finally, start doing it … RIGHT NOW! [3]

You want to put your degree to use. For crying out loud, take a break from your work, go to the managing partner’s office and politely demand a time to talk about your career. You think they won’t allow it?

Maybe your right, maybe they won’t hear you out. Or maybe they will give you 2,3 minutes of their time and when you make your pitch they will with a chuckle dismiss you.

Are you going to allow them to do that to you? Hell no, that’s just a test of how bad you want it. Schedule an appointment for the next day. And if you can’t get on the schedule enlist the help of their assistant to find out when they will be coming in.

What’s your job, each and every day ask them again if you can have a moment of their time. That’s foolish you think. Well its not as foolish as getting the job doing higher end work.

How about this, try this for 30 days. If you haven’t succeeded by the last day ask yourself ho bad has it been? Are you really that much more worse for wear? No way, you could easily go on for another 30 days … and another 30 days after that. BE FEARLESS [4].

It really comes down to who is going to win in this battle of the wills. Let me in on a little secret … you are. Why, because if you are that determined. The managing partner of the firm is not going to deny you.

No, no, no, the managing partner is going to wake up one morning and realize that you are needed. The managing partner is going to wake up and realize that nobody else has the type of determination that you have and that same managing attorney is going to want to make sure you are in his or her stable. 

Don’t be afraid to work hard at a job which seems beneath you. Your learing, your building, and if you push for it you will get out of your rut and finally get some traction in your career. I wish you the best and would invite your comments.

[1] To find the NWLawyer Article With Kings and Counselors Bartelby the Doc Reviewer click [HERE].

[2] To learn “How to stop screwing yourself over” review Mel Robbins Ted Talk of the same name [HERE].

[3] To watch and listen to Van Halen help you realize what is happening Right Now click [HERE]. 

[4] If you really want to make it in this world, don’t be afraid to go after what you want, check out this 9:00 minute video [HERE]. “Go out there, and do the damn thing!”

Realtors: Ask Your Client If Anything Has Really Changed Besides Ignorance

Every now and again I am called upon to assist clients and realtors determine how to proceed when there is a cloud on title which needs to be cleared before the client can obtain financing. Basically, if there is a cloud on title, mortgage companies won’t lend, when mortgage companies don’t lend, only cash buyers will come to make the purchase … if at all.

In fact, sometimes it is these cash buyers who want to figure out if is worthwhile to purchase the property notwithstanding the cloud on title. The answer to that is not unequivocal. But, in the main the answer is usually no.

Use the situation, to force the seller to sort out the issue first and if it is to your satisfaction, then move forward.

Now what is reasonable as to satisfaction? That is the loaded question that real estate brokers should be seeking to help their clients understand. In a situation where there may be a fence which is encroaching on to the land of the neighbors, is it acceptable to have the fence pulled back? To the prospective buyer that discovers the presumably latent defect, this might in fact be a deal killer.

However, what about the situation in which the prospective home purchaser has identified the home of their dreams and they are ready to move forward when all of a sudden it is discovered that they fence is closer to them than it apparently should be. What then?

Realtors in this situation should help their clients to realize that to clear title an easement will make things right. But, that’s my land the home purchaser is likely to indicate. They may even move on to the argument that I’ll be paying taxes on that land.

To the first question, just ask: really? When you made the offer were you contemplating that you would get that extra 1/2 foot on the other side of the fence? The answer is: No.

With respect to taxes, just strike a reasonable number with the seller. The purchaser is indeed getting exactly what they pay for … no more, no less. 

Why Shouldn’t Mediators Help Parties Evaluate Conflict within a Mediation?

Is it appropriate to advocate in mediation? This seems to be a very loaded question. The Uniform Mediation Act at bedrock is undergirded with the idea that mediators are there to facilitate a process. The claim then is that the parties are the experts at the conflict and the mediator is the expert in the process.

Whereas it might seem appropriate to keep these boundaries [- there I go again with that word -] distinct, I don’t believe that there is anything near the separation that happens in a mediation even for those mediators – apparently the majority – who place themselves in the facilitative camp.

If so, then there ought not be much problem in a situation where the parties are from different cultural backgrounds. But, in such a case the best thing a mediator might do is to be able to intellectually internalize how a party indicates the rationale for an action.

An example of this might be when a Chinese and a WASP-American neighbor who haven’t met need to work out an issue with a propensity for conflict. The WASP might decide to hire an attorney and go straight for the throat. The fact that they refrain might be construed as a matter of restraint.

The Chinese person may disregarding custom in China of finding an intermediary, seek instead to make a direct approach. But, Chinese culture is such that it is completely improper to go to a neighbor’s house for the first time empty handed.’

For the WASP, this would be akin to going to a small dinner party without bringing a bottle of wine. Or perhaps more clearly identifying norms, the inappropriateness of allowing your child to accept an invitation to a birthday party and not bring a gift along for his or her friend.

Now in a facilitative mediation, how is the single act of perhaps giving flowers going to be construed? With a facilitative approach will the question be vetted? It may be that the parties stumble onto the fact that this action was the instant which served as the “continental divide” whereby they rolled to completely different positions … .

But as it seems rather trivial and both parties may be working based on the assumption that the other recognizes the signal the same way … i.e. the Chinese a sign of obligatory courtesy v. to the WASP a sign of contrition which is deemed a signal of acknowledgment of mistake … it is entirely possible that this one act was the impetus for all future personal discord.

Now, an evaluative mediator who actually knows of this cultural schism might be able to see it and raise it and in doing so allow the parties to recognize that whereas they don’t interpret actions in the same way, there is a difference between intention and the action itself. 

Interestingly, law is very clear about this difference. Tort law (i.e. wrongs including negligence) identifies this difference but also includes other factors such as causation and actual damage. For pure thought on the subject, its best to turn to criminal law.

A crime does not exist unless there is both the criminal act as well as the criminal intention. Helping parties to evaluate whether their perception of the other parties intentionality seems to be a very important part of mediation. 

For mediators and for that matter anyone else involved in a conflict, I would recommend them to take a look at the Ted Talk by William Ury [co-author of Getting to Yes] who indicates that the mediators job is to help the parties to step back and in doing so get a fuller sense of the conflict by looking at what Ury calls the “third side.” [1]

I’ve used two analogies, that of two sides to every coin and two sides to every fence to explain the concept that we are both looking at a single coin or a single fence. This is the frame of reference I come in when I “evaluate” a conflict.

Merely, facilitating the crossing back and forth over the line between side one and side two seems inadequate until one is able to get to the point that both parties are able to evaluate the totality of the situation. Why are mediators seemingly afraid to recognize that they are taking on this challenge?   

[1] Take a look at William Ury’s TED talk [HERE].

Do you have what it takes to go “Against the Gods”?

Hmm? That title is a little bit odd. Sounds like some sort of promotion for Led Zepplin [1] … or perhaps Spinal Tap [2]. Yet instead, it is a promotion of one of the more interesting books I have read in the past and expect to again do so in the future. 

Peter L Bernstein takes what the layman would likely find very dry material and lays in incredibly interesting fashion the history of development; concepts; and characters involved in his book titled: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk [3].

Right there on the front of the Introduction page (i.e. page one) Bernstein succinctly lays it out:

The revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past is the mastery of risk: the notion that the future is more than a whim of the gods and that men and women are not passive before nature. Until human being discovered a way across that boundary, the future was a mirror of the past or the murky domain of oracles and soothsayers who held a monopoly over knowledge of anticipated events.

I like that quite a bit, it speaks to me about change, mastery, and of course twice that paragraph indicates the importance of boundaries.

I recommend anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading this book to put it on the top of their intended reading list.

I unfortunately don’t have the book on my desk and as a result don’t recall exactly what Bernstein said about what was the situation like before risk evaluation systems were developed.

Now that said, I got to think about something more last night at my mediation training class. We got onto the notion of that which one focuses upon positive or negative becomes a goal. The first example explained was of a football coach who as was the norm during those days would follow-up game day with a review of the game reel.

Like most coaches he would give a critique of plays which didn’t come off as well in an effort to seek to improve his players. Did his players improve? No.

So, one day he decided to flip his approach and concentrate only on the successful plays during a game. What was the result? Improvement and success.

We then heard the story of how a parent was training his daughter how to ride a bike. The girl was getting it and in a somewhat wobbly form I suspect took off down the road. But, the father saw the danger ahead and shouted:

“Look out for the Rock, Honey” … WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCK …. DON’T HIT THE ROCK!

What happened? Of course, the girl hit the rock! [4]

Now on the complete other hand, I want to relate an story of amazement that I witnessed when I was living in Taiwan in ’95-’96. I haven’t been back, but suspect that they still have a sizable portion of the population moving around on motor scooters which might be best described as Vespas on steroids.

At any rate, the traffic patterns were fairly wild and on one of these scooters sat Dad, with oldest daughter standing in front of him holding on to the mirrors, Mom behind Dad, with middle son sitting between them; and off of Mom’s back was wrapped the youngest child.

Now while that may sound like clowns stuffing them inside of a VW Beetle at the circus, there was one more thing that made this picture unique.

In front of the daughter was placed a plain window pane the width for which went up above her midriff and the length extended likely no less than 2 feet beyond the envelope of the bike. Yikes!

My questions are these:

First, was there a risk there? And when I ask that question I am attempting to tease out whether there is a difference between perception of risk and danger.

Second, if the risk is not contemplated, does it reduce the likelihood of an ‘event’ unfolding? More specifically, considering that any ‘event’ likely occurs as some confluence of forces some beyond control and others within such that the individual finding themselves in a risky/dangerous situation may either recognize and chooses to dismiss (stupidity?); recognizes and chooses to disregard (courage?); or fails to recognize altogether (ignorance? and/or luck?).

Third, where is society allowed to dictate what is “reasonable” and where are we allowed free choice? Here, think about seat belt laws. Think about the anchoring systems which are mandated now for babies. And think about the arbitrary law that we need to wait until kids are 13 before they can sit in the front, passenger seat [at least here in Washington State].

Fourth, how do you think those laws get on the books? I suspect that occurs because someone or more likely a consortioum of someones sees both a problem to fix and an opportunity to make or save money and they work to make a necessary systemic change. 

Returning to the seat-belt idea, remember that it is the insurance companies that are both gathering statistical information and paying out claims. So, insurance companies have an interest in creating systems which best delimits the damage caused by the ‘event’ of crashes.

Finally, I’m curious to return to the girl hitting the rock and the football coach’s success. I’ve recently been reading Napoleon Hill’s original “Think and Grow Rich.” There is a section of the book which speaks to “auto-suggestion.”

Auto-suggestion’s basic idea that you can program yourself with thought to be successful … much like Olympic Athletes program themselves to envision victory before stepping into the arena of competition.

Specifically, do those who thoughtfully disregard risks and will themselves forward have a higher statistical probability of success? If so, perhaps one does have a significant say as to what side of the line the statistics ‘come down on you.’

There are a rare few people in this world who take it on as Robert Duval depicts Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now who are completely indifferent to danger. [5] For these people, how often does God extend or withdraw his hand of risk?  

[1] See the wikipedia entry about the English rock band [HERE] and their official site [HERE].

[2] See the wikipedia entry for 1984 film This is Spinal Tap [HERE] and Roger Ebert’s commentary [HERE].

[3] To purchase Peter L. Bernstein’s book Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk at Amazon click [HERE].

[4] I’ve heard a similar story about First Responders coming to find fields in the ditch … wrapped up around electrical poles. 

[5] See the wikipedia entry about the film Apocolypse Now [HERE] and a partial picture of Kilgore as well as Roger Ebert’s commentary on both the original and Apocolyse Now Redux [HERE].  

Imagine a Sheer Change from Boundaries to Title Lines

Yesterday, Curt Sumner had NSPS treasurer Bob Miller on his radio program. [1] Apparently, Bob is the first in a series Curt intends to invite on his show to get surveyors better connected with their leadership and as indicated in one segment to illustrate that leaders are really just normal people who are willing to step up and serve. That part was good. So, when the program goes to archive, for those surveyors who may have missed the program, I encourage you to download and listen to it.

Despite the general positive tone though, Curt mentioned at one point the troubling situation in Arkansas where surveyors are being made to answer to the GIS department. I don’t know this story or what its implications are. So, I would gratefully invite anyone willing to do so to take a moment to explain their perspective as to what this all portends.

That said, I am going to go out on a limb and indicate where my mind is taking this happening.


Basically, I suspect the upshot is that GIS because of its precision is becoming a proxy for boundaries.

If so, then surveyors are basically being asked to come in and solve a few riddles here and there when there are gaps and overlaps, junior/senior rights, or whatever else that people much more clear on how to figure out where that high theory called a legal description actually lands on the ground.

As to the rest, I suppose we are looking at “sheer” bliss. This is to say that this sounds like it spells the abandonment of allowing surveyors to do the most important role that their profession calls upon them to do … protect property rights and the welfare of society.

Instead, we will have in many cases theoretical legal descriptions arbitrarily “cut” through land.

Instead of having people who know what they are doing in this regard, let’s instead lets allow sometimes rather miscalculated, mismarked, or mismanaged theoretical real property lines as described purely by legal descriptions dictate who owns what.

To Hades with the fact that a fence which both parties have recognized (and here I think we should clarify that this isn’t anything like the legal doctrine of Mutual Acquiescence [and Recognition]) ought to continue to be recognized as the boundary.

You too, I suppose ought to be the call to a widow gardener who has enjoyed planting and harvesting the land for years and years beyond any statutory period before an adjoining neighbor came in and decided to do a scrape-off and realized that they actually own more land than they thought before purchase.

But, what is going to happen when you find that the recorded property line cuts through the middle of a structure. Hey I know, just “cut to the chase” literally with a specially made rotary saw the size of a large pizza./p>

Please tell me my future call is off the mark here. The sky isn’t really starting to fall … is it?

[1] Curt Sumner is the Executive Director of the National Society of Professional Surveyors and has a weekly web radio show which you may find [HERE].

RE: Katie O’Sullivan’s NWSidebar Post – You’re a Hero, Toby Piering

I encourage lawyers to read the NWSidebar’s post by Perkins Coie’s Katie O’Sullivan titled: You’re a Hero, Toby Piering. [1] I agree!

Moreover, at slightly north of 300 words, you will get through it in less time than it will take you to reach over, grab, look at the cover, nod disapprovingly, and replace the National Enquirer back on the rack before it is your turn to pull out your groceries at the check-out line.

Basically, Mr. Piering was able to flip the ‘kill-switch’ of gearing up for litigation at a deposition when the opposing party went ill … . Ill with life threatening heart problems.

Well, Mr. Piering found the man and was able to put his first responder [2] skills to good use to assist in assuring that this man was well cared for until paramedics arrived.

Now, I suspect that there are a few out there who might scoff at this as being a self-serving piece which a white shoe firm is putting out to demonstrate its gentility. And you know what … that is exactly the point!

Though, I have no doubt as to the genuine intentions of Katie O’Sullivan’s piece. I think it might be appropriate to ask this question.

How do you think a firm like Perkins Coie became a white shoe firm in the first place?

I’m to believe that it is because Perkins Coie has a core set of values which attracts both great legal talent and clients.

As Mr. Piering illustrates, that caliber of people doesn’t deign to extend a courtesy to a ‘neigbor’ in need just because they may end up at different tables across from the judge in the future.

In fact, I should think Mr. Piering’s assist, which prompted thanks from both opposing client and opposing counsel, will actually benefit the client Perkins Coie is representing in the matter. As I have said before, it’s hard to sue someone who is your friend.

Your thoughts? I challenge you to differ! 

[1] Find the May 29, 2015 – You’re a Hero, Toby Piering post [HERE].

[2] Find my posts likening Surveyors to First Responders [HERE].

Welcome Invitation to Prospective Neighbors

Dear Prospective Neighbor –

My family and I look forward to having a positive relationship with you.

Feel free to stop over and say hello. If you go forward with plans to purchase …

We hope not to be strangers to each other, but want to respect your privacy.

We understand there will be times when you may be frustrated with us.

We also understand there will be times when you will be frustrated with you.

When this happens, lets talk it through peacefully to solve the issue.

We believe that having good neighbors is not a relationship to be casually dismissed.

We hope you agree and to this end look forward to getting together for a summer BBQ.

Most Sincerely.

– Bob

Realtor Jeff Menday’s Tidying Recomendations

Yesterday morning before going back to my realtor’s post, I received an email from Realtor Jeffery Menday [1] which instead of bragging about having sold this or that house provided something of great value for neighbors seeking to sell their house and the Realtors who are helping them in this effort. I republish the list in full …

Mow the Lawn: An overgrown lawn is the equivalent of a bad haircut. One of the cheapest but most critical home improvement fixes involves cleaning up the lawn. Cut the grass, clean paths and walkways, clear away the clutter, and trim the bushes. The sweet summer scent of freshly cut grass is a bonus, especially if you’re trying to sell the house. For many buyers, it’s a sign that your house is well cared for.

Wash the Exterior: Cleaning the outside of your house is both cheap and surprisingly effective. Scrubbing the exterior can brighten he colors and might even eliminate the need for a fresh coat of paint. To stretch the existing paint job, use a hose with a spray nozzle to rinse off the dust and dirt that dulls the color and finish. For heavy-duty exterior cleaning, rent a pressure washer and blast away stains.

Tidy Up the Entryway: Wipe off visible dirt and grime, especially near the entryway where people get up close and personal with the house. Sweep the main walk and steps up to the entrance and wipe down the door (and window, if applicable). Remember to power wash or machine-wash the welcome mat.

Make the Front Door Memorable: The front door is both barrier and passageway, so make it a focus of home improvement efforts. If cleaning reveals cracks or peeling paint, give it a fresh coat and consider a new, bold color that will liven up the overall appearance of the house. Old or tarnished doorknobs should be replaced with newer hardware that feels sturdy in the hand. Then again, it may be worth replacing the door entirely. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot stock new doors at a variety of price points. Consider design elements like windowed insets.

Make the Entrance Welcoming: Once the door is in tip-top shape, add character to the entryway. A bright and seasonal wreath or potted plants are cheap and easy accents. A selection of blooms on the porch or hanging from windowsills will brighten anyone’s impression of your home before they even walk through the door.

Clean the Windows: Clean windows do so much for the appeal of a home. Wash the windows to let more sunlight inside while presenting that new-house look on the outside. This means keeping the windowsills and shutters clean, as well. If your shutters look worn after a good wash, a fresh coat of paint is an easy way to instantly lift the outer face of the house.

Keep Water Flowing: Make sure that water flows away from the house, rather than seeping into the foundation or pooling around the base or walkways. Likewise, keep the gutters clear so that water flows down the spouts rather than dripping over backed-up canals. These little fixes help preserve your home’s infrastructure and signal that it’s properly maintained. Moreover, who wants to step over puddles or dodge water dripping from overhead?

Use Eye-Catching Flora: Bring all-season cheer to the front lawn with flowers, plants, and bushes. Flowers provide pops of color that can make the yard seem more lush and luxurious and attract colorful birds and butterflies. Shrubs and other plantings serve as natural fences and create more privacy while giving your home that well-loved look. Plant flowers along the walkways or cluster them as a mini-garden in an obvious spot. Buy seeds from home improvement stores or transplant potted flowers from a local nursery. For a colorful garden display all spring and summer, plant different flowers that bloom at staggered intervals.

Enliven Existing Landscaping: Laying down fresh soil will keep your flowerbeds in good health, while fresh mulch gives your landscape a uniform and fresh look. There’s an upfront cost to mulch, but it keeps going for a couple of years. Lay it down this spring and next year all you have to do is turn and plump it to achieve the same results.

Focus on the Small Details: Craft a personality for your home with small and inexpensive upgrades. Think like an interior designer. Replace old or peeling address numbers with decorative new ones. Look for antique lights or torches for the entryway at flea markets and garage sales. Replace or repaint the mailbox, and add ornamental touches to flowerbeds with small figurines or fencing.

What would be ideal for neighbors to do? Well, if you really want to be welcoming of the new neighbor – or perhaps simply to do all that you can to have the neighbor from hell next door gone – you might want to consider doing a number of these things on the list. I’ll go over each, though some I lump together. 

Mow the Lawn: Looking at this negatively, you might want to do this to prevent a missappraisal as to where the boundary line is. Looking at this positively, you are managing perceptions as to what you expect for the neighbor coming in. Specifically, the lawns in the area are not unkempt, so if you aren’t willing to keep yours up, this property probably isn’t the right one for you.

Now, I realize that there may be some who think, but then I’ll be held to that standard too. Maybe, but almost always the case is such that it is easier to come down to a lower standard – if that is what you want – than later trying to raise the bar to a higher one. 

Wash the Exterior; Tidy up the Entryway; Make the Front Door Memorable; and most imortantly … Make the Entrance Welcoming: The analysis here is similar to managing expectations given above. But, there is an added point. Prospective purchasers who have signed a purchase and sale agreement have a three day right of rescission [that’s fancy legal speak for the right to untie or undo a deal].

What is supposed to happen during this period is that the prospective purchaser checks out the neighborhood including – if they are sufficiently couragous [which they ought to be] – to talk to the neighbors to make sure they indeed found their ideal living situation.

So, make your door, entranceway, etc. inviting. Who knows you might actually get your prospective new neighbors to come over and introduce themselves to you, so you can get on positive terms right aways.

Clean the Windows: This again helps to increase the neighborhood curb appeal which serves to set the standard for new purchasers.

Keep Water Flowing: It is not only important that you make sure that water runs away from your house, but that it doesn’t run toward the house of someone else. Especially with the number of hills and rainfall in Seattle, if you don’t do this you are setting yourself up for trouble with your neighbor from day one. So, if this is an issue which falls squarely in your court … just get it fixed.

Use Eye-Catching Flora; Enliven Existing Landscaping; Focus on the Small Details: Here again, spending 2, 3 hours of work to make the quality of your house and that of your neighbors more valuable is probably going to be worth the ‘cold one’ which you will so rightfully deserve when you are done.

Overall, and believe me I personally realize that this is much easier said than done, don’t be indifferent about your real property. As ‘Landed Gentry’ do your best to keep it up and it should have positive effects for you and your neighbors. Cheers!

 Find the website for Jeff Menday [HERE]. 


Mediators Usually Help Disputants See the Whole Fence – Not Just Their Own Side of It.

As someone who has been focusing on boundary law almost exclusively for the last 5 years, I have come to understand that in a conflict there are always (proverbially speaking) “two sides to the fence.” I think this language, or perhaps “two sides to a coin” help people to more concretely understand the concept that there are “two sides to every story.”

Unfortunately, this just isn’t how we are taught to think. Consider momentarily that the world calls the messy fighting during the mid-18th century to be the Civil War. This is because victors get the spoils of war. If the Confederacy had won, the world instead would call it (as some southerners yet do) The War of Northern Agression.

Mediators are the people who are called upon to help people realize that there are two stark realities contained within a conflict … and if they are lucky they are able to help the disputants see the reality from the other side of the fence.

When this happens, both are able to recognize the fence for what it is … a duality of realities.

While some may stubornly hue to their reality after acknowledging that the other reality exists, it is no earlier than this point where people realize that the other person has a point – or in better keeping with the fence analogy: a point of view – which the mediator can use to start to explore the underlying rationales for the fence itself. 

In the work of actual boundary dispute law, these are most common reasons for a fence:

  • Security from the Outside
  • Safety for people or animals Inside
  • Privacy from Voyeurism
  • Block of Blighted Property
  • Noise Block Usually From Others
  • Sun Block Usually as a Derivitive Effect of other rationales 
  • Clarity of Bounds; and finally
  • Spite

That’s a rather long list of interests which I just prattled off. Once these interests are identified, then in all cases, with the exception of the last motivation of “Spite” – these interests can be managed, massaged, traded, and reworked in such a way as to find other solutions.

In law school, property rights are analogized to a bundle of sticks. Explictly this analogy is attempting to say that there are several things that one can do when they have a relationship to something – as opposed to a person.

Instead, of merely seeking to resolve technical legal issues somewhat akin to the way that surveyors can either ‘slap down the math’ or actually seek to exert their ‘Quasi Judicial Function,’ mediators can actually solve problems which go far beyond the scope that a lawyer can. [1]

And what’s just as important is that mediators can do this much more quickly, economically, and non-emotionally taxing than attorneys. 

As far as I am concerned, the question of what is the BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement – i.e. litigation) is the wrong question. 

Mediators should really get across to people that if … and that is an everpresent variable … IF one gets their day in court, what will they gain from it? 

In all cases the diplomatic attempt of mediation should first be exhausted, then and only then should you consider going to court … if your pocketbook, gut, and calendar will allow you to pursue it. 

Do mediation first, figure out the contours of the fence and move forward with a peaceful relationship with your neighbor if you can are able to do so. The choice is simple. Unfortunately, the mistaken choice is repeatedly made. I hope your aren’t one of those that fall victim to that mistaken choice. With Utmost Sincerity.

See my blog post dated 2015.05.26 and titled: Surveyors Should Bring About Peace Between Neighbors where I first mention the different surveying concepts of ‘slap down the math’ as disdainful identified by Jeff Lucas, PLS, Esq. and exerting a ‘Quasi Judicial Function’ [HERE].