Practical tips for survival in biglaw

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WhirledWorld

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WhirledWorld » Tue Sep 15, 2015 11:10 pm

Mute Button

SEPTEMBER 09, 2015

If you are on a conference call with a large group and you are directly asked a question you don't know the answer to, don't panic and simply sit in silence. Eventually, someone else in the group will chime in and then you simply say after they are done, "Apologies everyone, I was on mute and was talking to myself there for the last few minutes!" Then, say that you basically agree with what the person who chimed in had said, "subject to some caveats that are best taken offline." Silly mute button.


180

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los blancos

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby los blancos » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:03 am

I'm pleasantly surprised - there is some pretty damn good advice in this thread.

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JenDarby

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby JenDarby » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:45 am

WhirledWorld wrote:
Mute Button

SEPTEMBER 09, 2015

If you are on a conference call with a large group and you are directly asked a question you don't know the answer to, don't panic and simply sit in silence. Eventually, someone else in the group will chime in and then you simply say after they are done, "Apologies everyone, I was on mute and was talking to myself there for the last few minutes!" Then, say that you basically agree with what the person who chimed in had said, "subject to some caveats that are best taken offline." Silly mute button.


180

Lol. I've had people do this, and its quite possible they employed this strategy.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:02 pm

SemperLegal wrote:
mister logical wrote:
DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

3

I am a transactional guy. M&A generally provides the broadest options because you are probably best equipped to draft commercial agreements, which is the bread and butter for a lot of in-house gigs, and you've probably worked in a wide variety of industries.

With that said, there is a wide variety of in-house jobs, many of which do not involve commercial agreements. Private Equity has decent exit options if you want to work at a PE fund and you come from a top notch firm. If you are in the life sciences group, you can probably go work at a life science company. If you are in the investment management group, you can probably go work for an asset management firm. If you work in the securities group, you can probably eventually be the SEC lawyer at a company (though you usually need 6-10 years of experience, because most companies do not hire more than 1 securities lawyer unless the company is in the financial services industry).

If you are a little agnostic on practice group and ultimately want options to land an in-house job, I'd go M&A - no brainer.

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Emma.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Emma. » Wed Sep 16, 2015 11:48 pm

Do small things for your health. If you can't make time for the gym/yoga/crossfit whatever, then at least walk to work and take the stairs when you get there. Ask for a standing desk, or at least stand for just a minute every hour and walk up and down the hall. You'll feel less shitty if you don't eat like shit, so premake meals in the weekend. Take smoothies blended with greens for lunch. Get as much sleep as you can.

Keep asking questions about the projects you are being assigned until you know the parameters of what's expected of you.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anomynous » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:33 am

WhirledWorld wrote:Use the support staff (paralegals, copy-editors, your secretary) for copy-editing, running changes, cross-reference checks, etc. They can also help you with checklists (to keep track of work progress) and working group lists (to keep track of all the parties and their contact info).
Relevant.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:57 am

Anonymous User wrote:
SemperLegal wrote:
mister logical wrote:
DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

3

I am a transactional guy. M&A generally provides the broadest options because you are probably best equipped to draft commercial agreements, which is the bread and butter for a lot of in-house gigs, and you've probably worked in a wide variety of industries.

With that said, there is a wide variety of in-house jobs, many of which do not involve commercial agreements. Private Equity has decent exit options if you want to work at a PE fund and you come from a top notch firm. If you are in the life sciences group, you can probably go work at a life science company. If you are in the investment management group, you can probably go work for an asset management firm. If you work in the securities group, you can probably eventually be the SEC lawyer at a company (though you usually need 6-10 years of experience, because most companies do not hire more than 1 securities lawyer unless the company is in the financial services industry).

If you are a little agnostic on practice group and ultimately want options to land an in-house job, I'd go M&A - no brainer.



Where do transactional lawyers who do mostly financing work exit into usually?

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WestWingWatcher

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WestWingWatcher » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:27 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
nealric wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Couple of other tips:

1) Do not take on any pro bono for at least a year. It can be good experience and you can get exposure to partners and clients that you otherwise would not, but it can also be a huge timesuck, can interfere with your billable work, and you don't get "leeway" for subpar work especially if it is a big case. Wait until you've figured out how to control your schedule and workflow before committing to pro bono. Watch out for seniors who try to peer pressure you into taking on pro bono cases - a red flag that those matters are taking up a ton of time.



Not an option in most cases (at least it wasn't for me). Partner assigns it, you are doing it unless you have a REALLY good excuse. It's usually some bigwig's pet project that he sure as hell isn't going to do himself.


At my firm, you don't get assigned pro bono very often. But I would consider pro bono if you are slow, which happens at a lot of firms for first years.


For firms that count pro bono hours toward your billable hours, I am guessing this advice doesn't apply? Or am I missing something?

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gk101

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby gk101 » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:35 pm

pro bono hours are not looked at the same way as billable hours even if a firm says they count. There are exceptions obviously, but you should only so pro bono if you are low on hours and trying to catch up. Never be in a position where you have to turn down billable work because you are too busy with pro bono stuff

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WestWingWatcher

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WestWingWatcher » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:38 pm

gk101 wrote:pro bono hours are not looked at the same way as billable hours even if a firm says they count. There are exceptions obviously, but you should only so pro bono if you are low on hours and trying to catch up. Never be in a position where you have to turn down billable work because you are too busy with pro bono stuff


Oh man.. I talked to 8 associates at the firm I accepted an offer from (pro bono, count as billable, no cap) and they really gave me the impression that they really were treated the same (e.g. someone said they billed 500 pro bono because of something that exploded and it as fine... not that I thought this was anywhere near typical, but I guess I still bought into it a bit too much)

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gk101

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby gk101 » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:18 pm

WestWingWatcher wrote:
gk101 wrote:pro bono hours are not looked at the same way as billable hours even if a firm says they count. There are exceptions obviously, but you should only so pro bono if you are low on hours and trying to catch up. Never be in a position where you have to turn down billable work because you are too busy with pro bono stuff


Oh man.. I talked to 8 associates at the firm I accepted an offer from (pro bono, count as billable, no cap) and they really gave me the impression that they really were treated the same (e.g. someone said they billed 500 pro bono because of something that exploded and it as fine... not that I thought this was anywhere near typical, but I guess I still bought into it a bit too much)

maybe your firm is unique but generally speaking an associate billing 2000 hours with 100 pro bono and another associate billing 2000 hours with 500 pro bono will not be looked at the same way.

If you are at a firm that pays market bonuses and have no plans to stick around for more than a few years, this distinction might not matter at all

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
SemperLegal wrote:
mister logical wrote:
DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

3

I am a transactional guy. M&A generally provides the broadest options because you are probably best equipped to draft commercial agreements, which is the bread and butter for a lot of in-house gigs, and you've probably worked in a wide variety of industries.

With that said, there is a wide variety of in-house jobs, many of which do not involve commercial agreements. Private Equity has decent exit options if you want to work at a PE fund and you come from a top notch firm. If you are in the life sciences group, you can probably go work at a life science company. If you are in the investment management group, you can probably go work for an asset management firm. If you work in the securities group, you can probably eventually be the SEC lawyer at a company (though you usually need 6-10 years of experience, because most companies do not hire more than 1 securities lawyer unless the company is in the financial services industry).

If you are a little agnostic on practice group and ultimately want options to land an in-house job, I'd go M&A - no brainer.



Where do transactional lawyers who do mostly financing work exit into usually?

What do you mean by financing work? Commercial lending financing? Real estate financing? Equity/debt financing (i.e. VC)? Public securities offerings? For each of these, how specific is the group? Do they only do that kind of work or do they do other things too (e.g., many VC groups also handle general corporate work).

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 17, 2015 9:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
SemperLegal wrote:
mister logical wrote:
DJ JD wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Think carefully about what practice group you join. I know lots of people that regret joining a practice group because they didn't think through their exit options. It is very unlikely that you will stay in big law.


About that last part, assuming you're a transactional guy, which groups in that umbrella are particularly bad for exiting? I'd figure M&A probably gives you the broadest range, whereas hyper-specialized practices like ERISA probably don't make much financial sense to bring in for most companies, but any more clarity is always appreciated.


interested in this too

3

I am a transactional guy. M&A generally provides the broadest options because you are probably best equipped to draft commercial agreements, which is the bread and butter for a lot of in-house gigs, and you've probably worked in a wide variety of industries.

With that said, there is a wide variety of in-house jobs, many of which do not involve commercial agreements. Private Equity has decent exit options if you want to work at a PE fund and you come from a top notch firm. If you are in the life sciences group, you can probably go work at a life science company. If you are in the investment management group, you can probably go work for an asset management firm. If you work in the securities group, you can probably eventually be the SEC lawyer at a company (though you usually need 6-10 years of experience, because most companies do not hire more than 1 securities lawyer unless the company is in the financial services industry).

If you are a little agnostic on practice group and ultimately want options to land an in-house job, I'd go M&A - no brainer.



Where do transactional lawyers who do mostly financing work exit into usually?

What do you mean by financing work? Commercial lending financing? Real estate financing? Equity/debt financing (i.e. VC)? Public securities offerings? For each of these, how specific is the group? Do they only do that kind of work or do they do other things too (e.g., many VC groups also handle general corporate work).


Leveraged finance or high yield debt work, aka at a place like Cahill where you're super specialized.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:38 am

One thing that's really helped me survive is learning not to take office time so seriously. Crack jokes in your emails. If it's late and you're waiting on documents, watch Netflix or play video games or whatever. Wear jeans on fridays unless your firm explicitly disallows it. Go on facebook or ESPN or reddit or whatever and take breaks. Use call forwarding. Work from home on a weekday if you don't have meeting scheduled.

Once you realize that all anyone cares about is whether the work gets done, quality of life goes way up.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2015 4:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One thing that's really helped me survive is learning not to take office time so seriously. Crack jokes in your emails. If it's late and you're waiting on documents, watch Netflix or play video games or whatever. Wear jeans on fridays unless your firm explicitly disallows it. Go on facebook or ESPN or reddit or whatever and take breaks. Use call forwarding. Work from home on a weekday if you don't have meeting scheduled.

Once you realize that all anyone cares about is whether the work gets done, quality of life goes way up.


amazing. I really appreciate this.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:05 pm

WestWingWatcher wrote:
gk101 wrote:pro bono hours are not looked at the same way as billable hours even if a firm says they count. There are exceptions obviously, but you should only so pro bono if you are low on hours and trying to catch up. Never be in a position where you have to turn down billable work because you are too busy with pro bono stuff


Oh man.. I talked to 8 associates at the firm I accepted an offer from (pro bono, count as billable, no cap) and they really gave me the impression that they really were treated the same (e.g. someone said they billed 500 pro bono because of something that exploded and it as fine... not that I thought this was anywhere near typical, but I guess I still bought into it a bit too much)


There's a difference between projects that partners instigate/start and stuff that you take on yourself. My firm usually has impact litigations or amicus briefs that partners reach out to the associate pool for assistance on. Occasionally, I've seen those blow up - sometimes to the extent that associates end up working full-time for months on them. The "in-house GC for a non-profit" stuff falls into this category as partners are usually involved with those organizations at a high level as board members.

Taking on a bunch of little projects for yourself is generally frowned upon. You'll know the difference - my firm has a pro bono coordinator who sends out lists of projects from various non-profits, like criminal appeals, housing court, drafting K's for small businesses. Those are usually done with little partner involvement. Too many of them and they are going to wonder what you are doing with your time.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby kaiser » Fri Sep 18, 2015 6:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:One thing that's really helped me survive is learning not to take office time so seriously. Crack jokes in your emails. If it's late and you're waiting on documents, watch Netflix or play video games or whatever. Wear jeans on fridays unless your firm explicitly disallows it. Go on facebook or ESPN or reddit or whatever and take breaks. Use call forwarding. Work from home on a weekday if you don't have meeting scheduled.

Once you realize that all anyone cares about is whether the work gets done, quality of life goes way up.


This is great advice. Its so important to balance the pressure/stuffiness/formality with some fun/happiness/calm. The people who burn out are the ones who go balls to the wall every minute of every day (and often don't come out ahead despite their efforts). Don't be lazy, but don't be afraid to take a breath when needed. I made a point to go out for a short walk each day, where I would just listen to music and relax a bit.

And I also agree that working a day from home now and then can really be a great idea. If you know its a day that will only be dedicated to doc review, or some extended research, or something drawn out, its really nice to just sit on your couch in your boxers with your dog next to you. It helps ease the stress by just getting you out of the pressured environment for a day.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Taking on a bunch of little projects for yourself is generally frowned upon. You'll know the difference - my firm has a pro bono coordinator who sends out lists of projects from various non-profits, like criminal appeals, housing court, drafting K's for small businesses. Those are usually done with little partner involvement. Too many of them and they are going to wonder what you are doing with your time.

This will be really firm-specific. But I would generally advise people to take on the "little projects" instead of the big sexy civil rights case. You can actually develop your skills as a lawyer on those matters. The high profile cases are just more of the same. Plus to the extent you care about maximizing the impact of your time, you may be taking a housing court client who wouldn't have had any counsel. That makes a bigger difference than being another generic junior associate on a sexy case that was always going to get plenty of resources and attention.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby quiver » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:01 pm

This goes to what other have been saying, but it's a pretty pithy saying and still the best advice I've ever gotten: Do not think of it as your partner's case with you assisting, think of it as your case with the partner (or senior associate) assisting. That means you should turn out work product that you feel is in final form, ask questions to get a full view of the case and how your assignment fits into it, take the initiative if your research on one question leads you into another question, etc. It's YOUR case so YOU need to know the answer.

Obviously you can't try to actually run cases as a first year; this is more about a general attitude toward the work. It really helped me. Just my two cents.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby 84651846190 » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:10 pm

There's a lot of stupid bullshit in biglaw. Don't let it get to you. Lots of politicking, striving, anal-retentiveness, etc. Just do the best you can at your job and try not to socialize with other lawyers.

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Johann » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:20 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:There's a lot of stupid bullshit in biglaw. Don't let it get to you. Lots of politicking, striving, anal-retentiveness, etc. Just do the best you can at your job and try not to socialize with other lawyers.


i socialize on the job but fuck the after work stuff.

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84651846190

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby 84651846190 » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:37 pm

JohannDeMann wrote:
Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:There's a lot of stupid bullshit in biglaw. Don't let it get to you. Lots of politicking, striving, anal-retentiveness, etc. Just do the best you can at your job and try not to socialize with other lawyers.


i socialize on the job but fuck the after work stuff.


Socializing with lawyers is cancerous to mental health.

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los blancos

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby los blancos » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:04 pm

How do you get dem business development nonbillables then

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:Leveraged finance or high yield debt work, aka at a place like Cahill where you're super specialized.

Your exit options will very likely be in the financial services industry. Probably to the same clients that you are servicing. It's a pretty narrow scope. If you're passionate about the work, go for it. If you are agnostic and you aren't sure if you want to solely work in financial services, I would recommend choosing a practice group that is broader. Personally, I think that you are crazy to join a group like that if you don't have prior work experience in this area to confirm that you will like it and that you want to work in financial services.

Sure, it's great going to a firm/practice group that is highly regard, but that prestige and sophistication of work likely means nothing outside of that practice area. If I am trying to hire a corporate lawyer to our in-house team and am deciding between a corporate lawyer that worked at a small to mid-size regional firm doing general corporate, equity financings and M&A, and a lawyer that worked at super prestigious firm in leveraged finance or high yield debt, the person at the small to mid-size regional firm will get the job. The leveraged finance person might have done better in school and might even be smarter, but their work experience is not on point - unless I am desperate, I won't want to take a leap of faith that they can quickly learn the relevant skills on the job.

All to often people ignore the practicalities of their group. Prestige does not mean unlimited exit options. Exit options are very closely tied to your practice group. People jump practices (I've known litigators that went in-house and did corporate), but it is rare. Look at job postings for in-house jobs right now, try talking to alumni in that practice area and maybe even talk to recruiters about the career trajectory for that practice area.

Don't join a practice group solely because your firm made you an offer and its the most highly regarded practice group at the firm. You will likely leave that firm and you need to think through whether you can lateral to another firm, join an in-house team or get a government job with that background. Don't be the 12th year associate that hates his job but can't leave because he has no other opportunities.

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WestWingWatcher

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Re: Practical tips for survival in biglaw

Postby WestWingWatcher » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:54 am

There's a difference between projects that partners instigate/start and stuff that you take on yourself. My firm usually has impact litigations or amicus briefs that partners reach out to the associate pool for assistance on. Occasionally, I've seen those blow up - sometimes to the extent that associates end up working full-time for months on them. The "in-house GC for a non-profit" stuff falls into this category as partners are usually involved with those organizations at a high level as board members.

Taking on a bunch of little projects for yourself is generally frowned upon. You'll know the difference - my firm has a pro bono coordinator who sends out lists of projects from various non-profits, like criminal appeals, housing court, drafting K's for small businesses. Those are usually done with little partner involvement. Too many of them and they are going to wonder what you are doing with your time.


Ahhh-thank you so much for the distinction. That makes a lot of sense because all of the pro bono projects the associates talked to me about were certainly impact litigation/in-house GC for a non-profit sort of assignments.

This will be really firm-specific. But I would generally advise people to take on the "little projects" instead of the big sexy civil rights case. You can actually develop your skills as a lawyer on those matters. The high profile cases are just more of the same. Plus to the extent you care about maximizing the impact of your time, you may be taking a housing court client who wouldn't have had any counsel. That makes a bigger difference than being another generic junior associate on a sexy case that was always going to get plenty of resources and attention.


This makes a lot of sense and is something I will try to keep in mind when I finally become an associate.



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