ITT: Describe your SA

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
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North
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ITT: Describe your SA

Postby North » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:49 am

Describe your experience as a Summer Associate at a law firm so future TLSers can know what to expect.

Most folks who landed an SA gig through OCI don't know exactly what they've gotten themselves into. Not all Summer Programs consist entirely of long lunches and attending yacht parties (of course, some actually do and we want to hear about those too). This thread is an attempt to compile TLSers' experiences with law firm Summer Programs -- whether with big or small firms. This information will give future TLSers an idea of the range of Summer Program experiences they might find themselves living and maybe -- just maybe -- dull the disappointment of a few people when they realize they're in for a "working summer" instead of a "party summer."


STANDARD RESPONSE OUTLINE
In an effort to standardize responses I've put together a framework of basic questions (quoted below for copying and pasting). Entries that conform to whatever the then-current edition of the standard response outline requested will get one of these things (Image) next to them to help guide readers to the most information-laden posts (but mostly because I can't help myself with that kind of stuff).

NOTE: If you have any suggestions for other information you'd like to see in responses, let me know in this thread or via PM. For example, I think it's super valuable to hear about specific assignments (like, I had no idea what a defined terms check was before I was assigned one), so I concentrated on that a bit in my initial draft. What else should I ask for?

Standard Response Outline (as of 04.26.2016) wrote:BASIC INFORMATION
    1. What market did you work in (e.g., New York City, Atlanta, Charlotte, the Midwest, etc.)?
    2. What kind of firm was it (e.g., BigLaw, MidLaw, SmallLaw, etc.)?
    3. What year did you do your SA? Was it a 1L SA or a 2L SA?
    4. What was the firm or firm-range (e.g., DLA Piper, V30, V50-60, etc.)?
    5. What sort of work did you do (e.g., all litigation, mostly corporate, securities, etc.)?
    6. Around how many people were in your Summer Class (e.g., 100+, <10, 30-40ish, etc.; but consider not answering if you were in a market small enough for this to potentially be outing)?

CONTENT
    1. What kind of assignments did you get?
    • Specifically, what were the assignments? For example, if you did mostly banking work, did you draft ancillary documents or did you mostly do cross-reference and defined terms checks? If you did mostly litigation, did you take the first swing at motions or just churn out internal memos? Please be detailed—this sort of information is scarce, but quite valuable to incoming SAs who have never worked in a law firm.
    • Do you have any tips for doing well on the assignments you mentioned? For example, if you managed a closing checklist for a deal, what tips did you wish you had before you got the assignment?
    • More generally, did you feel like you were assigned “make-work” or actual substantive work?
    • Did you get feedback on your work? Was it cursory or substantial and constructive?
    2. Was it a “working summer” or a more of a “party summer?”
    • Did social functions seem to be considered more important than the assignments you received?
    • Did it feel like a 12-week-long job interview?
    • Did they tell you at the beginning that everyone would receive offers or that not everyone would? Did they equivocate at all (e.g., “generally, everyone gets an offer”)? Or did they not bring offer prospects up at all?
    • What kind of events did they put on?
    3. What was the outcome of the SA?
    • Did you get an offer?
    • Did anyone in you Summer Class get no-offered?
    • Did you (or do you plan to) return to the firm as an Associate?
    4. Is there any other information you think those looking to learn what to expect during an SA might find helpful?

Be as detailed as you are comfortable with, but recall that there is pretty much no chance of outing if you post anonymously and, if necessary, fudge some information.



POST DIRECTORY
Legend: [Market] [Firm Type] [(Firm or Firm Range, if applicable)], [Year] [(Specialization, if applicable)] [(Notes, if applicable)]

BigLaw




MidLaw




SmallLaw




Other/Insufficient Information



Note that some posts contain multiple descriptions. Such posts are listed above as many times as necessary to fully capture the information provided.

Updated to: Tue Apr 26, 2016 5:52 pm
Last edited by North on Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:45 pm, edited 38 times in total.

Mal Reynolds
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Mal Reynolds » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:54 am

Great thread idea.

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JohannDeMann
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby JohannDeMann » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:35 am

real attorneys should also feel free to translate/annotate what is actually going on based on what they witness throughout the day

doctoroflaw91
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby doctoroflaw91 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 8:38 am

Tag. This is awesome. Thanks, North.

r6_philly
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby r6_philly » Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:18 am

It was learning and socializing with some work mixed in. TBF it is very hard to give substantive work to SAs. Not only clients won't pay for SA work, it often takes longer to turn SA work into usable work product than just doing the work because SAs lack proper training that they will receive when they start as associates.

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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby arklaw13 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:39 am

tag. this is great.

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nealric
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby nealric » Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:52 am

This was summer of '09- first post financial crisis summer. Summer was shortened from 12 to 8 weeks at the last minute with the class split into two staggered start times. They announced on day 1 that there wouldn't be offers for everyone. Offer rate ended up in the 60% range I think.

There really wasn't much work to go around. Many of the real associates were on track to bill maybe 1200 hours. I don't think I legitimately billed anything, but people were staying until 10PM+ and coming in on weekends working on silly pro bono projects just to show they cared. The firm still tried to do some fun events, and there were some fantastic partners who went out of their way to make up for events that the firm wasn't having by taking smaller groups of SAs out. Despite the stress, I actually have pretty fond memories of it.

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AreJay711
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby AreJay711 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:06 am

(Edit: I was at one of the big 3 Texas firms.) It was pretty hit or miss. Sometimes I was given real projects that an associate might be given. Some examples:

* I wrote a memo on a relatively discrete legal matter that was forwarded to a large client that recently began U.S. operations. The only reason, I assume, was because another firm had one of their summer associates send a shitty memo on the same topic, and the partner wanted to demonstrate that his summers were better. Definitely the highlight.

* Some one-off research for litigation or to answer discrete topics regarding deals. Sometimes they would have multiple SAs do the exact same thing, I guess with the theory that one of us would catch anything the others missed. We assumed that they were directly comparing us, which made it slightly stressful.

* I drafted a form agreement for a certain type of transaction that is not done very often (projects practice). This was probably just busy work that was completely reworked by the assigning associate, but it was good to get an idea of what they were doing on a macro level.

* Lots of non-billable client development shit. Things like newsletters or reports to be sent to clients. The firm didn't bill clients for SA time anyway, so this was a win-win. We were given a longer leash with this kind of thing.

* Some paper management tasks. We had to grant a security interest in a pipeline that went through hundreds of counties in different states.

* We did some "final" review of documents, to check to make sure the contract matched the terms sheet and all the defined terms were defined and cross referenced properly. I'm highly skeptical on the "final" nature.

* I worked with a senior associate who forwarded me emails, marked things up with a red pen, and then gave it to me to make the changes in the documents. He then brought me along on the final in-person negotiation for some deal ancillary to a main deal. This was actually practical experience because, with lots of help from one of the secretaries, I learned how to use the firms document management and redline software.

* We also did a lot of sit and observe. They'd bring us in on client meetings or phone conferences after giving us materials to review. I'm pretty sure we weren't expected to say anything. One time I got to explain to local counsel what I found in my research, after thoroughly going over it with the assigning associate and partner.

Even when we did do things that a real associate might do, there was a lot of hand-holding and supervision. We were also probably given more time and less shit to do. The biggest blocks of time were in events. In our billing software, usually over 15 hrs a week would be under "recruiting." Probably about 20 hours of actual stuff that could have been entered as billable (though maybe not realized) and with the rest being client development or administrative or whatever.

Maybe counter-intuitively, we got fewer "real" work assignments in practices that were very busy. It takes time to review SA's work, and if the associates are slammed trying to get their own things done, they aren't going to break off a manageable piece, explain it to the SA, review the SA's work product, and then debrief the SA, at least in transactional practices where you can't assume the SA has a single clue about what they are doing. Don't think just because a practice gives you more good work, that means they are busy.
Last edited by AreJay711 on Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Capitol_Idea
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Capitol_Idea » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:30 am

tag. Thank you North and other posters!

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bruinfan10
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby bruinfan10 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:22 am

A few years back, I was at one of the big-3 california native firms (OMM, GDC, LW). Small summer class, relatively high workload--it was a FAR cry from the descriptions of NYC SA experiences I'd heard about. I think a summer class of 8 kids will have a vastly different experience than a summer class of 80.

I had one or two memo assignments assigned in the morning (obviously on non-monumental issues) that a partner wanted to forward to the client by the afternoon, I had a high number of those bullshit "scan every available case in x-litigation area for a perfect match to our set of facts/legal issue" that midlevels love to farm out to summers, and people made me feel like crap when I couldn't find the needle in the haystack (obviously no summer associate is going to be a great legal researcher, but having clerked now for a good period of time, I can say that these were truly searches for unicorn cases that midlevels don't have time to do but that they enjoy giving summers in the off chance we stumble on gold). At least twice I was given a substantial assignment that an associate prepping for a conference call or oral argument needed back in a day and a half, so I pulled some all-nighters.

I had a friend at the LA office of a Chicago megafirm that had a similar experience. They shitty thing about it was, we had only ever heard about the modelsbodelz NYC summer experience, so we really felt like we were doing something wrong because we were stressed about what were supposed to be a set of makework bs assignments. In hindsight now I think we just got paired up with crappy assigning midlevels.

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mandimeoutof10
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby mandimeoutof10 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:43 pm

Great thread. I'm in for more anecdotes to know what I have to look forward to this summer.

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bjsesq
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby bjsesq » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:57 pm

I summered at Winston and Strawn in 2012. Winston has a pretty conservative atmosphere, so for knuckle dragging me, I had to watch what I said. Most of the associates we worked with were interchangeable. They each had their own niches, but very few of them stood out as personalities. There was on senior associate who was an absolute bad ass and I loved the guy. He was pretty straight up that the firm sucked ass generally, and that the key to succeeding was finding a partner you liked and working your ass off to make yourself indispensable to them. Throughout the summer, the firm sold itself as a financially conservative and extremely stable firm and touted its high offer rates and low leverage as compared to other firms. Things hit freakout mode in the week or so between the end of the SA program and when the calls went out. Rumors were swirling that the firm was hemmorhaging due to overextending on the recent acquisitions of Dewey and Howry. I blew it off, and thought it was douchey freakout law students being douchey and freaking out.

I received the no offer call around 9 in the morning, and was offered the opportunity to say I withdrew my candidacy instead of getting no offered. I did. Turns out, roughly 1/3 of us got the ding.

Anonymous User
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:02 pm

Sorry to poke a bad memory further, but why is it preferable to withdraw candidacy over taking a no-offer? It seems like only the firm wins on that, and screw those guys.

I had no idea W&S was going through that kind of stress then - I was working with their NY office around that time on a prior Dewey contract that transferred to W&S post-acquisition and got no sign of any issue, although it explains why the junior associates I worked with kept jumping ship.

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bjsesq
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby bjsesq » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Sorry to poke a bad memory further, but why is it preferable to withdraw candidacy over taking a no-offer? It seems like only the firm wins on that, and screw those guys.

I had no idea W&S was going through that kind of stress then - I was working with their NY office around that time on a prior Dewey contract that transferred to W&S post-acquisition and got no sign of any issue, although it explains why the junior associates I worked with kept jumping ship.

I brought it up, so don't apologize for asking questions. I think they thought they were doing us a favor because we could just say we withdrew due to fit or some other nonsense. In reality: everyone knew. Everyone.

Traynor Brah
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Traynor Brah » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:08 pm

bjsesq wrote:was offered the opportunity to say I withdrew my candidacy instead of getting no offered

On NALP, does this mean you would not have been included in the "SAs considered for full time offers" stat?

Great thread so far though, thanks guys.

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bjsesq
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby bjsesq » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:11 pm

Traynor Brah wrote:
bjsesq wrote:was offered the opportunity to say I withdrew my candidacy instead of getting no offered

On NALP, does this mean you would not have been included in the "SAs considered for full time offers" stat?

Great thread so far though, thanks guys.

I have no idea. I think above the law may have talked to a NALP guy about this, and I think he said that we still fall under that heading. I'm not sure, though. Your instincts about why they did it mirrored mine at the time it happened.

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Pneumonia
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Pneumonia » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:15 pm

Tag, thanks to those who posted.

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Yukos
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Yukos » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:15 pm

Really cool thread, thanks to everyone who's contributed. I do think posting anonymously but giving the firm name (or something close, like big-3 Texas) would be a little more helpful, in the off chance we're going to that firm.

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J9ofDiamonds
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby J9ofDiamonds » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:22 am

zacharus85 wrote:tag. Thank you North and other posters!

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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby FloridaCoastalorbust » Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:30 am

taggert.

Anonymous User
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:08 am

I summered in 2010 for a lower V100 in NYC. The firm had told us at the outset that the offers were "there for us to lose." I had a great time. Didn't work very much. I had a couple assignments checking people's work. I did one big pro bono assignment that took up a good chunk of my time and gave me a writing sample to use. The summer events were pretty good, despite still being in the heart of the recession. I made sure to go out to lunch with an associate or partner at least a few times a week. 100% offers at the end of the summer (a couple were "general offers," meaning that they guaranteed you could come on full time but they weren't sure in which department you would be placed).

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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:52 am

Hopefully this is helpful for someone with a SA at non biglaw. Tl;dr - not a lot of socializing but plenty of work (which I thought was a good thing). Usually was at the office working from 8:30 - 5:30.

I was at two local firms that are around 20 lawyers. Firm A does corporate, banking, lit, bankruptcy, and real estate and Firm B was a transnational boutique (don't want to say type of law). At Firm A it was just me for four weeks then another clerk joined. Firm B was just me the whole time.

Firm A I informally rotated between groups. No real set program but I did do a little bit of everything. Mostly in the bankruptcy and lit group. I did a ton of research and would simply email answers/cases in the body of an email. Often, however, I would draft a full blown memo. I also drafted a demand letter and did some contract drafting.

No after work activities besides an informal occasional happy hour with the young associates. Lunch with associates everyday, sometimes a partner or two would join. One night, a partner took my S/O and I out to a fancy restaurant which was nice. That partner and I really clicked so I think that's why he did it.

Overall great experience. I enjoyed the substantive work and the non after work requirements.

Firm A was quite conservative. Had to wear a suit everyday and I live in the South so that is kind of a big deal during summer.

Firm B was mostly memo drafting, contract drafting, contract review, due diligence, and legal research. Minimal after work requirements. Did a fun happy hour on my last day and went to the firm's annual summer party which was a lot of fun. The associates and partners are this firm were a lot closer than Firm A so lunch everyday was always a mixed bag of associates and partners.

Firm B was extremely laid back and casual. Biz casual to the max. Really liked Firm B, also clerked with them during 3L.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 22, 2015 10:57 am

delete

Anonymous User
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:46 am

I summered at a D.C. BigLaw in 2014 and focused on patent law. Sorry that I cannot disclose the name of the law firm for obvious reasons. My summer work was a mixture of social events (one per week at least) and real substantive legal work that can be billed to clients. For example, I was able to finish a provisional patent application (claims first, specification second) after reading
1) a published paper by the client;
2) a PowerPoint slide about their "New" technology;
3) one old poster for a conference; and
4) a two-page summary of the experimental results/advantage of their "New" technology.
The senior associate simply gave me the green light of doing the work from scratch (I had drafted scores of patent applications before and during law school), and checked my work according to an agreed-upon schedule. The work was in kind of a rush since there would be a new round of investment which hinged on a new evaluation of the worth of the company. This new technology was conceived as one building block for the company's perceived money-earning/ground-breaking project. In the end, I completed the work in time. The attorney told me that the claims I drafted were better than those drafted by some other attorneys. I was a bit relieved after hearing that since I wanted an offer.

The rest of my legal work included
1) numerous memos based on legal research of issues central to a few patent litigation cases in the patent litigation department;
2) numerous office action responses in front of patent offices in the U.S., Russia, Australia, China, and EU;
3) updating some standard client letter formats regarding legal opinion work (cite-checking);
4) two FTO opinions which included reading (browsing the claims) over 500 patents/patent applications and trying to find potential 102/103 issues for key patents/patent applications owned by one entity (prior to M&A or new round of investment); and
5) searching and analyzing the patent portfolio of certain companies, whose stocks were held by an investment group, for a purported "business proposal" project in which my mentor would try to sell this patent analysis service to the investment group.

We also visited USPTO for half a day and interacted with attorneys from several branches of USPTO. And we attended a few oral arguments/hearings at the CAFC and USPTO.

As to social activities, like I said, we had at least one event every week. I scheduled working lunches with at least two groups of attorneys every week. Free food, free rides, free wines, etc. We also had a Summer Associate Summit at the firm's headquarter for three days. All these events were designed to test whether a summer associate could mingle with his or her future colleagues. Most of the attorneys who attended those social events were fun, relaxed and helpful. I was sure they all wrote reports afterwards about SA's behaviors. Just do not become DRUNK in any of those social events.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:39 pm, edited 5 times in total.

chicagoriver
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Re: ITT: Describe your SA

Postby chicagoriver » Wed Apr 22, 2015 12:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I summered at a D.C. BigLaw in 2014 and focused on patent law. Sorry that I cannot disclose the name of the law firm for obvious reasons. My summer work was a mixture of social events (one per week at least) and real substantive legal work that can be billed to clients. For example, I was able to finish a provisional patent application (claims first, specification second) after reading
1) a published paper by the client;
2) a PowerPoint slide about their "New" technology;
3) one old poster for a conference; and
4) a two-page summary of the experimental results/advantage of their "New" technology.
The senior associate simply gave me the green light of doing the work from scratch (I had drafted scores of patent applications before and during law school), and checked my work according to an agreed-upon schedule. The work was in kind of a rush since there would be a new round of investment which hinged on a new evaluation of the worth of the company. This new technology was conceived as one building block for the company's perceived money-earning/ground-breaking project. In the end, I completed the work in time. The attorney told me that the claims I drafted were better than those drafted by some other attorneys. I was a bit relieved after hearing that since I wanted an offer.

The rest of my legal work includes
1) numerous memos based on legal research on issues central to a few patent litigation cases in the patent litigation department;
2) numerous office action responses in front of patent offices in the U.S., Russian, Australia, Chinese, and EU;
3) updating some standard client letter formats regarding legal opinion work (cite-checking);
4) two FTO opinions which included reading (browsing the claims) over 500 patents/patent applications and trying to find potential 102/103 issues for key patents/patent applications owned by one entity (prior to M&A or new round of investment); and
5) Searching and analyzing the patent portfolio of certain companies, whose stocks were held by an investment group, for a purported "business proposal" project in which my mentor would try to sell this patent analysis service to the investment group.

We also visited USPTO for half a day and interacted with attorneys from several branches of USPTO. And we attended a few oral arguments/hearings at the CAFC and USPTO.

As to social activities, like I said, we had at least one event every week. I scheduled working lunches with at least two groups of attorneys every week. Free food, free rides, free wines, etc. We also had a Summer Associate Summit at the firm's headquarter for three days. All these events were designed to test whether a summer associate could mingle with his or her future colleagues. Most of the attorneys who attended those social events were fun, relaxed and helpful. I was sure they all wrote reports afterwards about SA's behaviors. Just do not become DRUNK in any of those social events.

sounds like lots of work, how long is this SA?




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