Updates: New Job + Class at Jenkins Law Library

You may have noticed a lack of posting to this blog. As some of you know, I’ve taken a position with Thomson Reuters working on Westlaw Journals (f/k/a Andrews Litigation Reporters). I started in April and ‘graduated’ from training earlier this month.

Right now, I work on the Westlaw Journal Insurance Coverage. So, I’m monitoring all of the news on insurance coverage litigation, writing about cases, etc. The team in Wayne is awesome. I’ve learned so much already from the copy team and through my training about journalistic writing. (All notwithstandings and neverthelesses have gone out the window.)

Here are some of the cases that I’ve written about that have been published on the website. You’ll note that headline writing is a craft and I’m still practicing:

  • Restaurant must serve fresh insurance claims, N.Y. panel finds: May 6 (Westlaw Journals) – A Long Island, N.Y., restaurant’s failure to alert its insurer about a possible lawsuit as soon as it discovered that a patron died from alleged food poisoning proved fatal to its coverage claim, a state appeals court has ruled.

Exciting, no? No, but really… it’s great to analyze cases again. In addition, it’s awesome to know that my employer appreciates my social media skills and my independent endeavors. While I had to take a break from this site and my other site while I was getting acclimated to my new job, I’m definitely not leaving this project behind.

With that said, here is one more plug and activity on which I’ve been spending some time. Remember my class on Blogging for Legal Professionals? Well, I’m teaching it at Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia on July 27th from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. You can check out the website for more details but here’s the course description:

This course will give an overview about the benefits to blogging in a legal practice or as a legal professional. You’ll learn how to focus your blogging topics to match your business objectives, use your blog to connect with clients and colleagues, and manage a posting schedule that matches your lifestyle.

Will be back soon and I apologize for the delayed absence!

JD Profiles: David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney, Goodwin Procter, LLP

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

David Hobbie started his career as a litigator at Bingham McCutchen (then Bingham Dana & Gould) before moving to a new firm and a new type of career. Nowadays, he serves as the Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney at Goodwin Procter, LLP in Boston. David shares with us how he started blogging, how he segued into a new position, and he also shares some resources for lawyers interested in KM.

RecruiterEsq: Hi David, thanks for speaking with us. You work at Goodwin Procter, which is one of the world’s top law firms. American Lawyer Magazine ranks it in the top 50 US based firms. The firm allows you to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and maintain a blog?

Yes, my firm’s social media policy allows attorneys and staff to blog, although of course some topics are off-limits and I have to make it clear I’m not speaking for the firm. I blog (intermittently) about litigation knowledge management and related topics at Caselines; that blog is my own and it is not firm-sponsored. There are three firm-sponsored blogs, Sustainable Development (e.g., green building), Financial Crisis Recovery, and the Founder’s Toolbox blog, part of the Founder’s Workbench online resource. I do not write for them or the firm’s Twitter accounts. I’ve had my blog Caselines since 2007 and have been using Twitter since 2008. Stay tuned also for some news about a new channel related to ILTA!

Initially I was using these collaborative tools with an eye to their possible use inside my enterprise; that remains true, but they have also turned into a great way to connect with KM colleagues around the world and to keep informed of all the latest developments in my line of work. For instance, I can get a daily snapshot and preview of the content that some of my favorite tweeps are linking to at http://paper.li/kmhobbie/legal-kmers, which is a compilation of stories from the people on my “legal-kmers” Twitter list.

As for LinkedIn, there are degrees of use, but I think that it’s well past the adoption tipping point. At my firm, over 1000 of us (attorneys and non-attorneys alike) are on LinkedIn already (that is, have Goodwin Procter as their “current company”) out of a total population of south of 1500.

Goodwin Procter, LLP seems to embrace the changes in technology. For start-ups, the Founder’s Toolbox that you mentioned is an awesome resource. How does the firm’s environment foster innovative thinking and lawyering?

One of the firm’s formally expressed core values is “collective entrepreneurship.” That means that, even if you’re a relatively junior person on the team, and you have a good idea, it won’t be dismissed out of hand simply because of your seniority. Many of the firm practice areas have developed technological sophistication and social media savvy simply in order to keep with their extremely sophisticated clients.

That’s awesome to know. It’s something you don’t necessarily find out during OCIs or even interviewing as a lateral. How did you decide to start blogging?

I started blogging as part of an experiment with social media. At the time, I was lucky enough to have Doug Cornelius as a fellow KM attorney at my firm. We were looking at social collaborative tools in part because we were moving to SharePoint 2007 (which includes primitive wikis and blogs) and wanted to see how they might enhance knowledge-sharing, and what security or governance challenges they might present. Doug had started KM Space six months or so before Caselines got underway. I haven’t been able to put as much time into it as I would like, but it’s proven a useful way to capture and organize my thoughts, particularly at conferences, and it’s also raised my visibility in the legal km field and led to speaking opportunities I might not otherwise have obtained.

What are your responsibilities as Litigation Knowledge Management Attorney?

My role and that of my team is to help the litigation department attorneys and staff function more efficiently and effectively. We do this by providing cutting-edge tools for searching and browsing information about the substantive work of the firm, such as previous briefs or deals, and putting information “at the fingertips” of the attorneys and staff. So I have some daily responsibilities to help people find what they need, and longer-term responsibility to A) make sure the firm has cutting-edge search, storage, and collaboration tools and B) deliver enough training and awareness for the attorneys and staff to know the best tool to use in a given situation.

What does a typical week look like for you?

My weeks vary a lot. I typically spend a number of hours responding to specific requests relating to firm work product or other internal information, and the bulk of my time on specific projects such as budgeting and alternative fee arrangements, investigating what to do about docketing and calendaring, developing a new shared workspace, or rolling out the next training & awareness on-demand resource.

You were a litigation associate in the early part of your career. How did you segue into knowledge management?

I had enjoyed the legal research and writing I did as an associate. I also realized that I liked working in an office, with intelligent colleagues, but that I didn’t enjoy the more adversarial aspects of civil litigation. To put that into simpler terms, I didn’t like butting heads with people all the time, and having it be my job to show that the attorney on the other side was an idiot (and vice-versa, his job to show me for a fool). The litigation KM position at this firm was advertised in the state’s local legal weekly, and I knew from reading the description that it would be a great fit for me. I relish being in a “helper” role instead of an adversarial one, and while not writing memos myself I’m close enough to the process to still be participating in identifying the best firm resources that fit a particular legal or business challenge.

How do you think clients benefit when law firms invest in knowledge management?

This is a great question. With better knowledge management resources and systems, a law firm is better able to find and refind key content, and keep from reinventing the wheel. Clients should be able to get answers faster, and hence–at least under a billable hour model–cheaper. Better KM should also lead to better identification of who has the most relevant experience for that project or potential project.  Lawyers who have to worry less about how their teams organize and find information should be more able to focus on their clients’ needs.

Some KM tools, such as document assembly and checklists, also enable a firm to move work to a lower-cost provider. For instance, a junior associate might be able to generate and do basic vetting of a set of transactional documents a lot faster using such tools, work that would have required a senior associate to adopt a slightly different form of agreement. On the litigation side, to give another example, an associate can get started on a legal research project into a topic such as commonality requirements for class actions at the fourth or fifth stage, instead of at the first stage, by quickly finding and leveraging the dozens of briefs on that topic that have already been written.

Collaboration tools such as matter wikis might also prevent a matter team from having to waste time looking for information that might be buried in an email chain or otherwise not readily available.

Do you think knowledge management is something that lawyers should learn in law school? How do you think it could or should tie into the law school curriculum?

I have mixed feelings about this. The emphasis in academia is, and perhaps should be, on learning how to think like a lawyer. While study groups are great, a lot of that work is best done by the individual law student struggling with the caselaw. I start off junior lawyer training sessions by contrasting how taking advantage of other’s work is treated in law school or college, as compared to how it’s treated in a law firm. It’s grounds for expulsion in one, and the zenith of communal good in the other! So, enterprise-type KM is probably not really relevant yet.

On the other hand, law students should perhaps be thinking already about how they manage their personal store of information, their personal knowledge management. How are they going to keep up with the changes in their profession? How will they learn about the firms or other careers they hope to join? How will they be able to organize and share what they learn? There’s a whole group of people studying personal knowledge management, and increasingly impressive technological tools (such as Evernote) to help them do it.

Speaking of Evernote (which I love!), what tools do you use on a daily basis – cell phone, cell phone apps, SaaS, etc.?

I work with an at-times bewildering array of tools. On a given day, I might be developing on a SharePoint list of settlement agreements; crafting or editing a Captivate training and awareness video; searching for samples of a certain type of motion to dismiss in a certain federal court through West KM; reviewing data-mining from our BudgetManager tool about work done in previous matters; setting up a SharePoint or PBWorks wiki; or testing search features of our document management system iManage/ Autonomy.

For my personal KM I use Hootsuite to publish to Twitter and LinkedIn; paper.li to catch up on stories people I follow have published; and Evernote and Instapaper, to hold interesting posts or other content. I have an iPhone, which I use primarily to consume rather than create content.

For someone interested in knowledge management topics, are there any resources (books, websites, groups) that you can recommend?

For on-line resources, the best legal-km related blogs at the moment are above and beyond km and Three Geeks and a Law.

The twitter hashtags #km and #kmers are used quite often.

ILTA is a great way for km peers to get to know each other, though it is not the only km peer group out there. There are also a few groups on LinkedIn, though those aren’t particularly active.

Some excellent books on KM-related topics that I’ve been reading lately include Richard Susskind’s The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Andrew MacAfee’s Enterprise 2.0, and Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.

Awesome resources. I’ve added those books to my wishlist. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us!


David Hobbie is Litigation Knowledge Manager at Goodwin Procter. A frequent speaker on legal business intelligence, knowledge management, and enterprise 2.0, you can find David on LinkedIn and Twitter or check out his blog Caselines.

JD Profiles: Susan Cartier Liebel, Owner, Solo Practice University

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

Susan Cartier Liebel worked in advertising then sales for ten (10) years before she decided to go to law school. As a law student, she realized there were hardly any resources for anyone who wanted to start their own law practice or learn the business side of running a law practice. She took the initiative, sought out mentors from her clinics and network of contacts, and opened her own law firm with friends from law school shortly after she graduated.  Since then, Susan has successfully practiced as a solo/small firm founder. Based on her own experiences, she started to teach others how to do the same. She served as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University’s School of Law and then opened her own consulting firm. About two years ago, Susan brought the idea to a larger scale and started Solo Practice University, the ‘practice of law’ school. Susan talks about her journey and the void SPU fills in legal education.

RecruiterEsq: Thank you for speaking to us today! You worked in advertising and sales for ten (10) years before attending law school. Why did you decide to go to law school?

I love education.  I found advertising and sales very unfulfilling.  I was very good at it but I wanted my advocacy skills to have more meaning and becoming a lawyer meant I could use those skills for something more important than creating a campaign to sell more batteries or perfume.

Directly after law school – well, after passing the bar exam – you opened your own firm with two classmates. Who started this discussion? Why did you decide to take that path?

When I finally decided to go to law school (four years after taking the LSATs and after turning down an almost six figure job) I was unsure if I was going to actually practice law.  I knew I wanted the education to navigate through life.  It was during law school that I realized I wanted to open my own practice and become an entrepreneur in the legal field.  I believed being an entrepreneur in the legal field was the epitome of law practice. But, I was quickly disabused of that notion while in law school. When I told people my desire, especially academics, I was looked at like something unpleasant on the bottom of their shoe.  That really pissed me off (excuse my French). I was so confused by that attitude.  So, I realized I had to figure out my own game plan within law school to take the right classes, clinics, etc. to make me prepared to go out on my own when I passed the bar.  This was no easy feat.  Yet, on the very first day of school I met two gentlemen who felt the same way so we navigated together and formed a game plan.

What type of law did you practice when you owned your own firms? How did you decide what area of the law you wanted to practice?

I concentrated on family law doing primarily divorce as well as representing children during the dissolution process.  I personally enjoyed the one-on-one versus dealing with business entities. While family law can really burn you out over time, the personal advocacy can also be very rewarding as you know you had a hand in directly changing lives. I’ve represented more than 100 children through the process and had several very memorable cases.  Putting my skills to use in this way was what I always envisioned.

As part of your game plan, did you work for firms during your summers in law school? In which law school activities did you participate?

I don’t recall what I did during the summers except take summer classes.  However, clinic was the defining event for me.  We had a full blown 30 day custody trial.  We did all the research, interviewed the witnesses, the plaintiff, the experts, took depositions and put on the trial with supervision.  I got pneumonia during the trial and the judge ordered me home.  The trial lasted up until Christmas Eve so we missed our finals (we took them after the break after getting special consideration).  For this experience, I received a prestigious litigation award (along with a sizable check!) from the sponsoring highly-regarded insurance defense firm in CT.  These events ultimately gave me the confidence to go out on my own.  I wasn’t particularly worried about marketing or getting business as I had this background in sales and advertising already.

Because I knew I was going out on my own, I never did the ‘hire me’ activities such as law review or moot court.  Maybe it’s because I was a non-traditional law student (not directly out of college and older) or because I’d had enough working for others, but I directed all my activities to those which helped me be my own profit center and self-sustaining once I passed the bar.

Once you started your own firm, to whom did you look for guidance regarding different matters?

I went to my professors first, then other attorneys I’d met and even judges!  I have no problem meeting and greeting but always offering my assistance to others first.  We did something very cool, I think.  When we met lawyers in court who were traveling to that court house from another town, we always told them if they ever needed a place to hang their hat they could borrow our conference room or offices.  (And prior to having an office ourselves, we would ask lawyers if we could rent theirs if needed – this was before virtual offices, etc.)  This always presented nicely and we genuinely meant it.  It was our way of putting it out there first.  We never did yellow pages or traditional advertising as we couldn’t afford it.  We did hang out in the court houses and restaurants lawyers frequented, acting part of the crowd.  We’d often get, ‘don’t I know you?’ because we’d be seen around and that was our entree to introducing ourselves.  It was fun.  And, naturally, these lawyers would offer their assistance if we needed it.  We used these offers sparingly, but strategically.

How did your background in advertising and sales help you when you decided to go off on your own?

My background in sales and advertising played a huge role because I know how to interview clients and ‘close the sale.’  There is nothing wrong and everything right with being able to identify a client’s needs and effectively address them.  When you do so, they want to hire you.  When you understand what will inhibit an individual and overcome those inhibitors, they want to work with you. That is the nature of sales.  It’s a critical skill in advocacy, not just in getting clients but in working with opposing counsel, mediators and judges.

You’ve been blogging for a very long time about solo practice. Do you ever read old posts and question whether your thoughts about solo practice are still valid?

I actually don’t.  When I write a blog post it’s fairly well thought out and generally global in application.  I don’t shoot from the hip because I know it will be in cyberspace forever.  Therefore, I’m pretty pleased with the content and prepared to debate and defend my thoughts or statements if someone doesn’t agree with me :-)  It was years of this consistent content and message about solo practice which permitted me to attract those who have helped to make SPU the success it is – the faculty, the students and our sponsors. Most importantly, going solo is about entrepreneurship.  Principles of entrepreneurship are timeless.

How did you start writing “An Independent Spirit” for Law.com?

‘An Independent Spirit’ was a column I was invited to write for the Connecticut Law Tribune after I won their New Leaders in the Law Award for Education.  The class, obviously, was my course at Quinnipiac University School of Law.  Since CT Law Tribune was owned by Law.com, when the columns were particularly interesting, Law.com would pick up the columns for national exposure.

Can you tell us more about the course you taught at Quinnipiac, “How to Open and Manage [a] Law Practice Right After Passing the Bar Exam”? What were the types of assignments or readings that were on your syllabus? I’m thinking about the realities of starting my own business, which I should point out is not a law firm, and what I didn’t learn in law school – e.g., marketing, accounting, etc.

Students ultimately created a very unique and personal business plan which took them out two years.  It was labor intensive and no two plans were the same, nor could they be, because no two lawyers are the same.  This may sound strange to you, but this is the truth:  You can’t box in entrepreneurs, only lay the ground rules for what they absolutely cannot do.  Then the sky is the limit.  The business of lawyering should be no different.  Before we ever started the business plan each student went through a guided analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, individual needs, support systems, and technological savviness.  This helped me to help them and it guided their business plan, how they needed to allocate their resources and more.  It was never used to dissuade them from solo practice.  It was used as an exercise in overcoming perceived obstacles and to build confidence.  Many students years later told me it was the one project they saved from law school and with a few tweaks they implemented it when they were ready.

Oh, I love that philosophy about entrepreneurs: “You can’t box in entrepreneurs, only lay the ground rules for what they absolutely cannot do.” I need to stick that quote next to my desk! It applies to lawyers and non-lawyers but, based on my own experience, law students graduate without a good sense of what they absolutely cannot do, despite the ethics exam and ethics class requirements.

When I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006, there was nothing like the course you taught at Quinnipiac and you started teaching that course in 2001!  Now, I see that Legal Rebel Max Miller started a program at Pitt Law called the Innovation Practice Institute. Have you seen more law schools implement programs on how to be a successful solo over the years?

I see law schools making efforts to do so but ‘named’ schools are restricted by bureaucracy and tenured professors fighting for their livelihoods.  The newer schools seeking accreditation are much more innovative taking their classes on line and recognizing their students will be going into business for themselves upon graduation like Lincoln Memorial in Tennessee.  Keep an eye on them.

With Solo Practice University, you’re able to offer many courses like the one you developed at Quinnipiac on a much larger scale, given the online platform. You’ve created that space in which lawyers can learn how to be more entrepreneurial within the limits imposed by the profession. How did you decide to start Solo Practice University?

Solo Practice University is a labor of love.  Truly.  It sounds like it was an overnight brainstorm but it was many years in the making, I just wasn’t able to fully realize the vision until January, 2008 when all the necessary elements came together. Half of any successful venture comes from recognizing when all the necessary ingredients to create a business are right in front of you…then getting in the kitchen and cooking! Ironically, I started ‘cooking’ at a time when law students were graduating into $200,000 associates positions.  Yet, SPU physically opened its doors one month after Bloody Thursday.

How do you choose faculty and guest lecturers?

Choosing faculty is both subjective and objective. We are frequently solicited by those who wish to teach. However, before we ever opened I actively solicited people I knew  who are excellent in their fields and believed in me. When I told them of my idea they were on board because it is positioned as a 100% win for all involved. I want those interested in teaching to approach me, too, because they may bring up a course I never thought of. One doesn’t need to be out for a 100 years to teach, though. They need to be good at what they do and have an active interest in a 21st century practice. If you are a superb advocate but don’t know how to turn on a computer, it will be very hard for you to teach others how to build their practices in the 21st century and on an online platform. I really enjoy using the SPU platform and traffic to popularize excellent lawyers who are teaching who might not otherwise be able to get the reach and audience SPU can provide. It’s actually one of my favorite things to do.  :-)

Are most of the people who enroll recent graduates?

Actually, no.  We are split between recent grads (0 – 3 yrs out), those out 4 – 8 yrs and a significant number out 10+.  Many finally want to learn how to build a 21st century practice and many are changing practice areas.  We also have a significant number still employed who are planning their exits or expect they will be shown the door soon.

Some of the skills that are taught at SPU would be beneficial for all lawyers to learn, solos or otherwise. Do attorneys ever sign up for SPU to learn how to expand their practice even if they have no desire to go solo or would SPU not be right for them?

Actually, we have many working for law firms (as noted above) who are utilizing the marketing, blogging, copywriting and virtual technology classes. And others are getting the benefit of the forensic accounting course and e-discovery class and other substantive classes and more to enhance their current work. While we emphasize solo practice, as you recognized, many classes can help any lawyer however situated.

Now that you’ve started Solo Practice University, what are your job responsibilities?

At this stage of the game I am totally in charge of SPU as the Founder and CEO with the exception of the actual architecture and maintenance of the site. However, 2011 promises expansion as we bring in more dynamic people to take SPU to the next level of operation.

What websites do you visit on a daily basis?

Interesting question.  There was a time when I had a list of must read blogs.  Now I utilize Twitter and use those I follow to drive me to excellent blog posts and articles, readings I would not otherwise know about.  I read NYT, WSJ and other news on a regular basis.

What technologies do you use in your business, e.g. blogging software, accounting software, SaaS products?

Our site is completely built on WordPress and BuddyPress and highly, highly customized as well as maintained by the extraordinary David Carson.  He’s absolutely loved by faculty and students.

[He’s also on Twitter!]

Solo Practice University is almost finished with its second full year of operation. Looking back, what has surprised you the most about the venture?

What has surprised me most about the venture is how universally well received it has been by colleagues, students, law schools and professional associations.  One person well positioned within a law school said, ‘You not only filled a void, the void was the size of the Grand Canyon.”  This was high praise indeed.  Along the same lines, the gratitude from students is very rewarding.  While our site is filled with testimonials, what I love most is hearing students say they finally have a place they can call home while they prepare for solo practice or continue to grow their solo practices.  Secondarily, we are reassured on a daily basis that we are delivering for our faculty, too.  They are receiving book deals, significant referral business, getting noticed by reporters and other opportunities they might not otherwise have gotten.  I feel personally successful when I know I am delivering on my promises.

You’re delivering on promises and you’re giving lawyers a space to achieve career success in their own way.  It was truly an honor to speak with you!


Solo Practice University, Susan Cartier Liebel’s brainchild, opened its doors in 2009. You can connect with Susan Cartier Liebel on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Quick Tip: How to Setup a Blog Using Blogger

blogger

Blogger is Google’s web publishing service.

By default, blogs created on Blogger’s platform will publish at a unique subdomain on Google’s .blogpsot.com.   However, users may choose to direct a blog created on Blogger to a custom domain name.  (We’ll explain how in another post.  Back to the setup…)

To setup a blog using Blogger, one needs to create a Google account.   On Blogger’s homepage, there are easy instructions on how to create an account.  Individuals who already have a Google account may use that account to log in or may decide to create a new account.¹

Once signed into Blogger, one must enter the desired name of the new blog – e.g. the title of the web page – as well as the desired .blogspot.com URL.  Again, the .blogspot.com URL will be where the blog is published on the web unless one chooses to publish his or her blog to a custom domain.

After the URL is created, one chooses a template.  A template is how the blog looks and feels.  There are only a limited number of choices when first setting up an account.   Templates are easy to change so think of this as a starter choice.

At this point, technically, the blog is created.  Although there are no posts, the blog will show up at the chosen .blogspot.com URL.

Adding Content

To create a post, one clicks on “Create” under the “Posting” tab.  There is a space for the post’s title above the box for the post’s content.  One may compose a post in HTML format or in Blogger’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get (“wysiwyg”) editor.   Depending on which editor is chosen, Blogger presents a different menu of tools to format the posts.   The default is the HTML editor.   For those unfamiliar with HTML, it may be best to click on the “Compose” tab on the upper right-side of the content box.  This makes styling the post’s content much more intuitive and the HTML tags do not show up when editing the post.

Once a post is drafted, one may add labels to the post for organization purposes.  A label determines how the post is archived. A post may have numerous labels and will be archived under each.   A post labeled litigation, federal court, and motions will show up under the litigation archive, the federal court archive, and the motions archive.

The last step is to press the publish post button.  A finalized post may also be scheduled for a future date and time.   Under post options, one would enter the future date and time and then press publish post.   Under the options panel, one may also decide whether the post will allow reader comments.

As a web publishing platform, one may decide to draft posts on Blogger even if the post is not finalized.   The save now button will save drafts of posts that are not ready for publication.  Like the save function on Microsoft Word, it’s best to freely use this function to prevent any future headaches.

After the post is published, the content will show up at the site’s URL.   It may be good practice to visit the live post to make sure it publishes correctly.

That’s it!   Without getting too fancy, a blog is created.

¹  Those with existing Google accounts may want to create a new Google account for privacy reasons. Google ties all affiliated accounts together. For example, a Google profile will display all Google products associated with one Google address. Although there are privacy settings for Google profiles, it’s best to create another account to prevent Google from disclosing this affiliation.

Other resources:

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