Robert WM Zierman is the managing attorney at Justice Smiles, pllc. He has studied and practiced boundary dispute law generally and the law of Quiet Title/Adverse Possession specifically since opening his law firm in 2008.
+ An Excellent Writer And Thought Leader —
A regular contributor to the King County Bar Association’s Bar Bulletin, Robert often writes about his nano niche practice arena. That forum has allowed him an opportunity to present several novel concepts he uses to assist the majority of his clients to more quickly, painlessly, and cost effectively resolve issues with their neighbors.
Articles illustrative of this include:
- The Perilous Fringe of Boundary Disputes – an article explaining why it is important to seek to de-escalate conflict when neighbor’s become embroiled in a boundary dispute. (Partial Article Link for Non-KCBA Members).
- Depicting Legal Elements and Predicting Case Merits – an article in which he offers a 3D graphical depiction of the law of Quiet Title/Adverse Possession after having fully vetted the concept after his presentation as a speaker at the Land Surveyors of Washington’s 2012 Annual Conference. (Full Article Link).
- Depicting Appellate Courts, Facts and Results – an article which illustrated how current concepts surrounding “Big Data” and “Data Visualization” will be used in the future for the purpose of more expeditiously provide a gestault understanding of the legal doctrine of Quiet Title/Adverse Possession, but also how this methodology allows more accurate and timely identification of analogous cases. (Full Article Link).
- Are We Going to Reinvent Law? – an article which argues that technological uptake in the legal industry needs to increase in order to increase the spead and quality of legal work product at lower cost. (Partial Article Link for Non-KCBA Members.)
+ A Legislative Champion for Justice —
Robert both testified and helped to successfully lobby key members of Washington State’s Legislature regarding the need to curb abuses which resulted from the the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in 1984 to remove any inquiry as to whether an adverse possesor had deisised (i.e. “taken”) the land wrongfully or by mistake. The result of this effort was the passage of RCW 7.28.083 which provides trial judges the discretion – not the mandate – to shift reasonable attorney’s fees and costs onto the losing party.
Because of the incredibly high stakes already involved in litigation, RCW 7.28.083’s additional prospect potentially requiring disputants to pay their adversarial neighbor’s legal bills assists the ratcheting down of irrational emotion in order to prevent what in many instances to all but the litigants appears to be a frivolous lawsuit. For most clients well counseled by their attorney’s this provides an impetus to peacefully settle their dispute and preserve an ongoing neighborly relationship.
+ A Strong Proponent For Peace —
Boundary dispute law is Robert’s professional concentration because it requires sharp analytical thinking; visual and spatial analysis; assisting to manage people’s emotion; and strategic planning and execution. Underlying all this is Robert’s basic mission to help neighbors who have fallen out of eachother’s favor to again start moving in the direction of the Golden Rule.
In 2014, Robert’s commitment to peacefully resolving conflict between neighbors while at the same time seeking to promote the ability of surveyors to also commence – if not complete this work in addition to their traditional services was recognized by Curtis Sumner, Executive Director of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). Graciously, Curt invited Robert to offer his thoughts to surveyors nationwide on The NSPS Radio Hour which Curt hosts at America’s Web Radio.
+ A Broad Spectrum of Experiences —
Prior to opening his law firm, Robert lived in Hangzhou, the capital city of his wife’s provincial home. While there, he served as General Counsel for a real estate development firm. In this position he was the only non-Chinese member of his organization. This assignment required Robert to handle real estate matters both in and outside of China.
Most importantly working and living in China offered Robert the incredibly unique experience of witnessing the exceptional negotiation skills of some of his gifted Chinese colleagues and develop his own skills as well.
Beyond real property, Robert has experiences which include work as a banker, a securities broker, and an ocean exporter. In addition to his work this century in China, in the mid 90’s he studied two years of Mandarin Chinese at the University of Washington and continued to study Chinese full-time while he taught ESL (English as a Second Language) for a year each in Taipei and Guangzhou (Canton) respectively.
Originally from Minneapolis, Robert moved as a high school sophomore with his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. He went to college in Colorado Springs where he earned his undergraduate degree in Economics at the Colorado College. Since receiving his BA, Seattle has been his stateside home. Robert and his wife Jenny Lee have two children – Abigail and Ethan.
- Quiet Title/Adverse Possession (and Related Theories).
- Covenants & Servitudes.
- Trespass & Zoning.
- Washington State Bar Association – Real Property, Probate & Trust Section – Member;
- King County Bar Association – Real Property, Probate & Trust Section -Member;
- Land Surveyors of Washington (LSAW) – Associate Member;
- Rotary Club of the University District, Seattle – Community College Scholarship Chair.
- Seattle University School of Law, Business Law & Commercial Law, JD, 2004
- Colorado College, Economics, BA, 1992
The Justice Smiles Logo has been created to build a friendly, recognizable brand. Below the meaning of the Logo’s component parts are explained as well as how the Logo will be used throughout the blog.
The Justice Smiles Logo is composed of four integrated parts. These are: (1) the Plumb Bob, (2) the Arc, (3) the Scales of Justice, and (4) the Shield. First, the Plumb Bob was one of the original tools used in land surveying and so it is completely appropriate to include it in the logo of a firm focused on boundary disputes.
Second, the Arc indicates the willingness and ability to look at matters from different angles prior to indicating where a matter should “settle”. [Please note that this concept is not to be confused with the idea of a “pre-trial settlement”, a strategy which may or may not be appropriate given the facts of a particular case.] Third, the Scales of Justice are included. And finally, all of this is surrounded by a Shield to indicate an offer of protection.
The Justice Smiles Logo as a whole was designed not only to express this firm’s approach to the law, but also to create a recognizable brand. In a crowded legal marketplace in which most people have a great deal of distrust for lawyers, the opportunity to stand out as a friendly, knowledgeable, and trustworthy counselor and advocate. is invaluable. The Justice Smiles Logo was designed to allow this to happen in an easily recognizable fashion.
Justice Smiles icons will be used throughout this blog to indicate various blog topics. A color-coded Justice Smiles icon will appear at the top and bottom of all posts indicating the following topics:
Bad & Good Neighbors
A Yellow-Gold Justice Smiles indicates Bad & Good Neighbors. This color is apt at both ends of the spectrum. If you have a bad relationship with neighbors and are imbarking an a boundary issue. Well, without seeking to be too crass, there is a distinct possibility that someone is going to stop thinking rationally and instead exhibit animalistic characteristics more associated with Marking one’s teritory” or worse. Justice Smiles seeks to steer its clients as well as opposing parties and counsel away from this “messy approach”. That’s bad!
On the other hand, some of the blog posts provided here indicate how a good relationship with one’s neighbors can be extremely positive. Other posts provide thoughts as to how to cultivate good relationships with one’s neighbors. In these instances, the relationship is “gold”!
Basics of Quieting Title
A Green Justice Smiles indicates Basics of Quieting Title. This is information for people that start with little to no knowledge of Boundary Dispute Law, but who nonetheless want or now need to educate themselves.
Posts included here speak at a layman’s level about the various legal doctrines which are used to resolve boundary disputes should your matter require going all the way to trial. Notwithstanding, Justice Smiles firm philosophy is that in almost no situation is the value of the land involved going to be worth the fight for either side when properly calculating the attendant risks of going to trial along with the financial, emotional, and temporal (i.e. time) costs.
The main purpose is to allow people to learn how a fight will unfold and end if it is taken to court. This along with an assessment of oneself and one’s opponent greatly assists in determining how things may turn out. In turn, this informs strategy, negotiations and – where required by extremely stubborn neighbors – moving forward litigation.
Encroachments & Surveys
An Orange Justice Smiles indicates Encroachments & Surveys. This catagory speaks to topics related to the interplay of boundary determinations as a result of the work performed by surveyors. While intended to yet be available to a broad audience, surveyors and “dirt lawyers” are the primary target.
Topics of coverage include survey accuracy, map depiction, authentication, and the effect of technological change to surveying.
Estates on Waterfront
A Blue Justice Smiles indicates Estates on Waterfront. This is a catagory with grand plans for expansion. However, that is all which will be revealed about it. Well, except for the fact that we do live in the northwest and as such to a certain degree anyone who ownes real property has an Estate on Waterfront … and water is the “common enemy.”
Events, People & Readings
A Red Justice Smiles indicates Events, People & Readings. This is a catagory which seeks to alert real property lawyers and relevant vendors of upcoming events, the people presenting and thought leaders, or my view after going to an event, met and interesting person, or the shape of my less penetrating thoughts after reading something which directly and sometimes not so directly relates to resolving boundary issues.
A Black Justice Smiles indicates Legal News. We have Black’s Law Dictionary and it would be nice if law was all black and white. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The law evolves and this is the category which seeks to track changes in the law. Legislation and important cases are the primary purview here.
Thoughts & Theory
A Grey Justice Smiles indicates Thoughts & Theory. This category provides an academic voice to matters directly relating to boundary issues. It is also the place where insights from different arenas of thought may be used as a lens to focus on these issues. Other practitioners in the fields of real property law, surveying, and title insurance more academically inclined are gratefully encouraged to offer your comments and insights.