8 Tips To Improving Your Law Firm’s Phone Intakes

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Most of our clients hire us with the goal in mind of making their phone ring more often. Ultimately however, what our clients really care about is getting new clients that they can attribute directly to our marketing. As you might imagine, what’s critical in making that happen is measuring the amount of calls that a firm gets and even monitoring those calls to ensure that when the phone does ring, the lead is being handled as best possible.

While a lot employees want a script to stick to, because every person calling is different and behaves differently, there’s simply not a script for every situation. So what’s more important than having a script is having principles that are constantly being reinforced to your receptionists and staff that can apply to each every single call regardless of the individual.

Here are the ones we think are most important:

 

  1. Assume every call you get is your dream client – Every suggestion here is based on that premise. By following this principle, when that client does call your firm, you will give yourself the highest likelihood for converting them to a client.
  2. Answer the phone no later than the third ring – Our experience has shown most people will not wait past 5 rings when they call so our advice is not to chance it and answer the call within 2-3 rings.
  3. First Impressions Matter – Your phone receptionist is making your firm’s 1st impression with your client which means this person should have a friendly, inviting and professional phone voice.
  4. Don’t Ask For The Same Info Twice – Pre-determine the level of detail you are going to have your receptionist ask before he/she routes the call to another individual. Few things are more frustrating than having to tell a long, painful story twice over the phone to a stranger. Our suggestion is, if you are going to route calls to an attorney, do so quickly so that your valuable lead isn’t having to go through that experience.
  5. Show Your Humanity – The people calling you are often in tremendous emotional, financial and even physical pain and because of that, your receptionist should have the emotional intelligence to convey the appropriate level of compassion and empathy for your clients when they communicate their problems.
  6. Escalate VIP Calls – Your receptionist should be able to quickly distinguish a “VIP Call” – a call that is of high value to the firm, whether it’s because of who is calling or the issue they are having, and then be able to direct the call to the corresponding level within the firm.
  7. ALWAYS Get Contact Info – Before any call is transferred, make sure that your receptionist receives contact information, as this could save a lead in the event that the call is not connected properly or that the individual is sent to a voicemail upon transferring.
  8. No Cold Transfers – The receptionist should do their best to “hand off” the call within the firm rather than just perform a cold transfer. By handing off the call we mean calling the individual you are transferring to and giving them a brief explanation of the caller’s situation, then notifying the caller of the individual you are transferring them to, then perform the transfer. This “hand off” will make a much stronger impression than just simply transferring the call.

Sample Law Firm Phone Intake Script

 

While phone scripts need to be flexible, here’s a sample script for your firm that will helps to illustrate how you can ensure you are making the most of each and every call you receive.

Receptionist: Thank you for calling {FIrm Name}, This is {Receptionist Name}, how can I help you?

Caller: Hi, my name is Suzy and I need to speak with an attorney.

Receptionist: Ok Suzy, just so I can make sure that I am sending you to the right person within the firm, can you tell me a little bit about what it is you’re needing help with?

Caller: Well I was in a car accident in Downtown Houston and my daughter has been seriously injured … I really need help from a lawyer because I don’t know how I’m going to pay my hospital bills …

Receptionist: [sympathetic, genuine] Suzy, I’m terribly sorry to hear that you are having to deal with that. Our lawyers are phenomenal at helping people who have experienced serious accidents. Do you mind if I put you in touch with one of our attorneys so they can get all the important information surrounding your case?

Caller: That would be fine.

Receptionist: Thank you. And just in case we get disconnected after I transfer you, what’s the best number for me to reach you at?

Caller: It’s 555-55555

Receptionist: Ok excellent, thank you for that. Now if you don’t mind holding, I’m going to try to put you in touch with Attorney Mark, he is one of the best attorneys in town when it comes to car accidents

[puts caller on brief hold, makes contact with attorney, gives brief description to attorney]

Receptionist: Ok Suzy, I am transferring you to Attorney Mark right now, I have shared with him what you told me and he would like to speak with you to learn a little more about your situation.

Caller: Thank you

[transfers call]

7 Tips When Starting Your Own Legal Practice: There’s Never Been A Better Time To Do It

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Career paths in the legal industry, like every many other industries are in a state of change. For ages, the the typical career path for lawyers went something like this;

  1. Finish law school
  2. Pay your dues for years at larger firm with the hopes of becoming a partner
  3. Eventually see your name on the sign outside the building

In the last 2 decades a variety of factors are disrupting an industry that has been notoriously averse to change and creating an opportunity for entrepreneurial attorneys.

What are the catalysts for these changes? Here’s some big ones;

And while some lament the good ol’ days of grad school internships, yellow page ads, billboards and mahogany lined meeting rooms with leather bound books, many young (and some not so young) attorneys recognize what this opportunity before them is: the best time in history to start your own law firm.

Getting Started

You may be asking yourself, what credibility does this non-lawyer have that I should listen to him regarding career decisions I am making?

The answer is that I’ve ridden shotgun with a number of attorneys (and spoken with dozens more) who have successfully transitioned to running their own practice and seen first hand how they did it. There’s some common denominators to the ones who did it successfully and it’s a science to it that I am happy to share. Here’s the commonalities I have found;

  1. Be highly competent  
    Everything begins and ends here. Good marketing, strategy etc, cannot overcome an uninspired or incompetent attorney. Unless your number one professional priority is to absolutely crush it for people who are spending their hard earned money and putting their livelihood, their family and even their health in your hands, then you’re not the sort of lawyer most people want to hire. I need my lawyer to care about my problems the way I care about my problems. In my experience, the good ones always do.
  2. Start in a niche, then expand
    While your long term goal may be to be the pre-imminent personal injury firm in Florida or the top criminal lawyer in Los Angeles, don’t set your sights on ultra competitive markets like that right off the bat unless you have a massive marketing budget from the jump. The firms who dominate the top of the country’s markets often have six figure (sometimes 7 figure if we are talking statewide) marketing budgets which means you will be fighting for table scraps if you immediately try to slay the biggest fish. Identify some underserved markets in the towns or communities surrounding larger metropolitan areas and win there first. You can always expand once you have victories under your belt and it’s always easier to make big commitments financially and strategically, when you have an idea of what to expect.
  3. Find a marketing partner, not a vendor
    Ok, remember everything we talked about in #1? Let’s apply that same scrutiny to whoever you hire to handle your marketing. Yes you want expertise, yes you want proof of past results, those are givens. But it’s critical that you hire an agency that will take your success (or lack thereof) personally. An unfortunately common story we hear from lawyers about marketing agencies are things like the agency ‘being on autopilot’, not taking accountability for results, phone calls regularly taking days to get a response and an inability to really explain what’s being done to make the firm successful. You need to hire a firm that will have a very close 1-to-1 relationship with your firm, that you can ask pointed questions to at any time and get an honest answer. Once you’ve identified the right marketing partner here’s a few things they should be able to help with:

    1. Build a website that wows your audience
      We say it all the time; your website is the foundation for your online marketing efforts. Too many times I have seen a site built by a friend or relative who dabbles in web design that isn’t up to snuff and comes with a lot of guilt if you want to make a change. Don’t make this mistake. If you asked me where I would spend my bottom dollar to market a law firm, it would be on the website. It’s the foundation for everything you do online. If done right, it will increase the return on every marketing dollar you spent and if done wrong it will undermine your marketing efforts
    2. Understand Your Strengths And Market Them In An Authentic Manner
      Again, I’m no expert, but speaking from experience, this one is important. Perhaps even some conversations with past clients about what they liked most about working with you (and what they did not like – ouch!). Having an understanding of these qualities about yourself professionally speaking will help you to take those strengths and market around them. Have you ever walked past a bakery and looked in their window? They don’t put their ugly cakes there. They put their most beautiful, most aromatic creations to lure carboholics like me into their store at which point it’s highly likely I am going to make a purchase. In that same manner, we want to take your strengths and put them front and center for your audience.  For example, let’s say you’re the empathetic type of lawyer; play that up in your marketing. Make sure your all your marketing speaks to the personal connections you make with your clients and the empathy you have for their situations. Or if you have accolades no one can rival, play that up. Or if you’re the pit bull, aggressive personality type, play that up. The point is there’s a market for all types of attorneys in every practice area. Don’t get caught up in acting like what you think a personal injury lawyer should act like. Playing to those stereotypes is so #2000AndLate and it’s just plain corny. There’s two firms here in Austin that are constantly running the most unintentionally funny ads on TV you have ever seen. My wife (who’s not in the industry) laughs out loud every time they come on. If you live here you probably know exactly who I’m talking about. I’m digressing but the point is, the worst thing you can do with your marketing is set the wrong expectations by simply playing a caricature of the lawyer you think people want to hire. Play the best version of YOU and there will be a market who appreciates it.
    3. Do your own social media
      We get asked all the time if we can help with social media and while we are happy to help get everything setup properly and make sure your content is posting to your platforms, the truth is this; the more real and authentic your social media posts are, the more engaging it will be for your audience. Your social media should reflect your firm’s personality and who else is qualified to project that on social media than you? So unless we are spending copious amounts of time with you or in our office, the most qualified person to put your message on social in an authentic manner is you.
  4. Demand reviews from clients
    That may sound aggressive in contrast to ask for your reviews but it’s necessary to be as emphatic as possible when requesting a happy client leave a review. This is rooted the the law of reciprocity; if I do a great service for you, I have the right to make a small ask. A review takes very little effort and is exhibit A in the “Small Asks Of Clients” manual.  A lot of lawyers get squeamish about asking for reviews but If you are following the first recommendation on this list and giving your clients your best, you should have no trepidation in making this request. In my experience, the easier you make this on your clients, the better. There’s a whole of bevy of apps that exist that allow you request reviews from clients using SMS text messaging and requiring only 1 click from the client. These reviews are going to be critical to ensure that people with similar problems to your happy clients can read about you and your services and connect with you.

It’s Not For Everybody

I don’t mean to make a complex decision seem so simplistic in this article and I understand that it may come off that way. There’s obviously countless opportunities to get invaluable experience and tutelage/mentorship at an established firm. If that’s your career path, more power to you. What intention is for this article, for those attorneys thinking to take the entrepreneurial jump, is to demystify the barriers to entry to starting your own firm.


Interested In Getting Started?

If you are one of those people looking to start your practice, we’d love to chat with you and answer whatever questions you may have. We work with firms big and small alike and we strive to be a true partner to all of clients. We even have some special pricing for solos starting out. So if you’re ready to chat, hit us up and we’ll schedule a call and share everything we know to help make your decision a bit easier.

Managing Legal Content Writing From Multiple Locations

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If you run multiple offices for your firm, you already know how difficult it can be to coordinate the cases you are working on. If you have decided to take on the task of legal content marketing, you will find the process will not be any easier. When managing your content marketing strategy from multiple locations, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Organize Everything in One Place

When you are working on a case for a client, chances are you do not have pieces of the file spread out in different office locations. While there may be multiple offices working on the case, there is always a central file that everyone can access. Content marketing for law firms should be no different.

There are numerous ways you can organize everything. The easiest is with websites such as Trello or Clipix. You can also host a central file from your own server, allowing access to everyone from multiple locations.  I prefer the former as you don’t have to worry about downtime or paying someone in the IT department to come in when your server crashes.

Have One Person Responsible For Everything

Ultimately, you need only one person making final decisions. This should be the person in charge of finalizing and posting all content. Even though you have multiple people working on a project, the final draft needs to fall to one person.

Having one person will help alleviate any concerns your firm may have with wording. You don’t want to publish something offensive or inaccurate so having that person do a “final” review will help keep that from happening. It will also ensure that the message you are putting out truly represents the firm.

Think about it. Would you turn in a brief to the court that was written by an intern without first looking at it yourself?

Always Enforce Deadlines

Failure to enforce deadlines can bring your content marketing strategy to a halt. If one person is waiting on another, it essentially creates a backlog and then no work will flow. This can cost you time as well as potential lost revenue.

It is imperative that you enforce deadlines to make sure that content keeps flowing. One office depends on the other to have their portion of the content writing done on time. Letting people miss deadlines without repercussions will only hurt your firm in the end.

Meet Regularly Face to Face

Having regular meetings will help keep projects on track and everyone on the same page. People working on the content will see each other and not just image them in an office elsewhere. They become real people who are relied on and not just figments of imagination.

In person meetings are always the best; however, distance will be the determining factor on how you organize the meet. If you are unable to meet in person, use apps like Skype or Citrix in order to do video conferencing. When you see actual faces, you will get the sense that everyone is working together, regardless of how far apart you are.

Final Thought on Managing Content from Multiple Locations

Regardless of how you decide to manage your content marketing from multiple locations, the fact is that you must do something. Failing to stay organized or have everyone on the same page can do your content marketing strategy more harm than good. Also make sure to task one person with the final review so that all your content reflects your firm’s message.

If you are looking to for an agency to manage all your content for you, give us a call for a quote.

How To Land The Cases & Clients You Want

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An issue I often come across with law firms is how to attract more of the types of cases they really want. While I understand that it’s anecdotal, I’d like to share a personal experience of how an attorney gained my family as a client, while some other firms did not.

Recently my family dealt with a life changing situation that required legal help. Without going into details, I can tell you it was (and continues to be) as stressful and painful of a situation I’ve ever encountered in my life.

In that small window between the time that we knew we needed an attorney and the time we actually hired an attorney, I learned a valuable lesson first hand: when you’re experiencing excruciating, life changing pain, you want relief from that pain and if there’s a lawyer that can relieve you of that pain (in the form of hope), you want the best possible lawyer.I thought I already knew that but I learned that I really had no clue.

Who We Hired

In the end my family hired the attorney who had #1: the compassion necessary to understand our situation, #2: the expertise to navigate the waters we were in and (most importantly) #3: the experience of handling the damn near exact circumstances that my family was facing.

All three of those items were mission critical for us as a family in making our decision. When we made our decision, we collectively felt a little bit better because we knew we had an advocate, someone one was both capable and highly competent, who would now (almost literally) fight on behalf of our family.

So while you maybe thinking to yourself “so you hired the most qualified attorney … sounds pretty obvious”, let me share some of reasons we didn’t hire some very capable attorneys as well.

Who We Didn’t Hire

The Jacks Of All Trades Law Firm

There were some really impressive lawyers we spoke with who could handle not only our type of case but also 3-4 other areas of practice. While that would be great if we were in the rare need of someone who was a good criminal, personal injury or intellectual property, we weren’t.

We needed someone who was THE EXPERT (I wish I could triple underline THE) in our issue. Every minute that the attorney spent, prior to meeting us, working in a different area of practice other than the one we needed help with, was a wasted minute as it pertained to us.

This is an important point, that in my experience is lost on many attorneys who think that by adding more case types to their website and their marketing strategy, they are simply casting a wider net to get more cases. While that may be true, I believe it’s also a surefire way to lose a client to another lawyer who has decided to make helping people with legal problem X their life’s work.

So my takeaway for my lawyer clients is this, hone in on the types of cases where you truly are THE EXPERT in and beat that drum as hard as you can. Put yourself in the position where you can sit with a potential client and tell them “I am the expert you need and here’s why …”.

If you happen to be THE EXPERT in multiple areas, keep the marketing/website from those areas as separate as possible because being very few of your clients will need you to be THE EXPERT in more than one area and you can undermine your expertise be having 8 areas of practice on your website.

The All Business Law Firm

I’d like to think of myself as a rational, thinking type who makes decisions in a pragmatic, almost scientific way. The reality of this situation taught me the real truth though: I’m an emotional human being like everyone else who is at the mercy of their reality.

We have the luxury of seeing bad things happen to people on the news everyday in the comfort of our homes with a hot cup of coffee in one hand in the TV remote in the other. But when something like that is happening to you, you’re perspective is radically different.

The first stage is disbelief. While I’m not going to pretend to understand all the steps in between, I can tell you that you eventually get to the point where you need someone to lift you up and give you a hope for justice. A good lawyer can must do that for their client. Not in a manipulative or ‘false hope’ sort of way. But in a manner that let’s me know that you feel my pain and this isn’t just ‘a case’ for you.

We talked to some lawyers that were plenty qualified and had all the skins on the wall. But at the end of the day, we didn’t feel like our pain was THEIR PAIN. Those meetings felt like business meetings more than a meeting with a close family friend.

Now don’t get me wrong, we aren’t naive enough to think the attorney we did hire is going to feel the same level of pain we did as a family. But that’s where I tell YOU as an attorney, don’t discount how important it is to give your client the compassion and hope they need when they come to you looking for help. I think sometime attorneys are so afraid of being manipulative or cheesy that they omit that emotion from their dealings with their client.

My advice is, don’t omit that emotion. If something makes you upset, let your potential client know that. If you’re outraged, even better. If you’re not feeling that empathy or emotion for your client maybe it’s time to re-evaluate if you’re in the right area of practice. But if you are, my advice based on my experience, is to let me feel that as your client. The more I, as your client, know that my pain is also your pain, the more likely I am to want you as my attorney.

 

Case Study: Who’s The Best Legal SEO Firm?

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As more firms begin to invest in online marketing as a way to generate clients, you see more and more “legal seo” companies coming out of the woodwork claiming their mouse trap is better than the other guys.

It’s my experience that most attorneys fall into 2 categories. Either they spend a ton of time learning about SEO rather than practicing law or they spend so much time practicing law that they know very little about SEO.

Being that I see a lot more of the latter than the former it’s important for me to always educate my client and potential clients so they can make an informed decision about their online marketing. With that in mind I did a case study of 864 personal injury web sites as well as the Google Rankings (Commonly referred to as SERPs (Search Engine Result Placement) by people in the SEO World) of 19 of the biggest markets (Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orange County, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle and St. Louis) in the US for the term “[City Name] Personal Injury Lawyer”. The goal was to benchmark key metrics based on SEO companies and online marketing providers in order to determine things like ‘who’s doing the best job of getting results for their clients?’. I chose to evaluate personal injury firms because PI tends to be the most competitive area of practice online. Note: All of this data comes from Google SERPs from Feb 13-25 that was collected via oDesk contractors. The data was spot checked for accuracy and a small amount (10 or less) minor edits were made in the event that data given was not confirmed. If you would like to see the data from which this study was conducted, please email me at brian@elitelegalmarketing.com.

As you can imagine there was a lot of data to decipher so to make this really simple, here’s two terms you need to understand to fully grasp these findings.

Domain Authority (DA): A logarithmic number created by Moz on a scale of 1-100 that predicts the likelihood of new content on your site ranking for it’s desired term. For example, if your domain authority is 50 and most of your competition has a DA in the 30’s and 40’s, you most likely will rank really well for your keywords. I’ve written a lot about DA in the past and how to increase it but essentially, you increase your DA by getting backlinks from other high DA sites.

Page Authority (PA): Same as your domain authority but for a specific page while DA applies to your entire site.

To illustrate in very real terms the importance of domain authority and page authority and the fact that they are great predictors of organic success on Google, look no further than the average DA/PA for pages 1-5 all of the cities the study encompassed:

This chart illustrates what a good predictor of SEO success both Domain and Page Authority are. Notice the how the closer you get to page 1, the higher the DA/PA. While SEO has very many complex aspects to it, as a rule of thumb, if you increase your domain/page authority, you will increase your position on Google.

Observations

So looking at this article, this basically means that you need to have a domain authority in the 40s to have a shot at ranking on the first page for Chicago Personal Injury Layer. That is some very stiff competition. From afar I would have thought that either Los Angeles or New York would be here but when you examine those cities and the related searches for each one, it appears that people in both LA and NY are more likely to search by neighborhood/suburb/borough/town etc. than they are to search by “New York” or “Los Angeles”.

This is a bit random but I found it Interesting that San Antonio made the top 5 here. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life and I always thought of San Antonio as being smaller than Houston and Dallas but nope, it’s bigger than Dallas and the 7th largest city by population in the US.

Legal SEO Vendors

One of the things we kept track of in this study is the SEO/Legal Marketing vendor of every web site that appeared in the SERPs I analyzed. This was done by looking for a link or logo in the footer of each site. In my experience, the company whose logo or link in the footer of a lawyer’s web site is more often than not, the lawyers SEO vendor however it should be noted that just because a vendors logo or link appears at the bottom of a web site, it technically does not mean that.
Here’s a look at what I found:

Observations

42% of the sites I looked at listed no vendor anywhere on their site.

There’s 5 “Big” Legal SEO firms in this report that I mention by name and then everyone else is put into ‘Independent’ Group. I arrived at 5 because the drop off from the 5th SEO vendor, iLawyerMarketing, which had 19 clients in the SERPs I analyzed, and 6th vendor had 8, more than a 50% drop off and a sample size that was too small to draw any sort of conclusion with confidence.

Of the ‘Big 5′, Findlaw had more than twice as many clients (13% Market Share) as the next closest vendor, Justia (6% Market Share).

Despite any of the companies not having more than 8 clients, independent SEO still accounted for 27% of the web sites I analyzed.

Observations

My first thought looking at this chart is, it’s difficult to get a personal injury lawyer to page one on Google. On average, no single SEO Vendor had all their clients on page on page 1 or even page.

That being said, iLawyerMarketing is head and shoulders above the other ‘Big 5’ SEO Vendors with Justia finishing a distant 2nd in both average domain authority and average Google ranking.

Findlaw & Lawyers.com both perform poorly which was very surprising to me because of their size and resources as a company (Findlaw is owned by Thomson Reuters Corporation and Lawyers.com by Martindale Hubbell). I’m speculating here but I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they are too big to adapt to Google and it’s ever changing algorithm.
If the last comment is true of Findlaw and Lawyers.com, the opposite is true of Justia. It’s impressive to that the 2nd largest legal SEO company in this study was 2nd in both average ranking and average domain authority. That is impressive in of itself and shows some nimble-ness (sp?) on their part to keep up with industry changes and keep their clients competitive.

While I can’t overemphasize sample size enough here, these rankings the data shows, in my personal opinion, are an accurate reflection of what I see as I do SEO for attorneys day after day. I have a great deal of respect for the work that iLawyerMarketing does and if you think I’m saying as any sort of benefit to myself, just know that I don’t know anyone there and I’ve never even had a conversation with anyone affiliated with iLawyerMarketing in any way. Put simply my company is competitors with them. But being that over half of the attorneys I speak to complain about getting screwed over by their SEO company, I have to give credit where credit is due and iLawyerMarketing does it right.

tl;dr: What You Should Take Away From All This

This was a lot of techno babble right? So what action items can you actually take away from this that will actually help your firm? In closing here’s my four big takeaways from this study:

iLawyerMarketing, based on this sample size of 19 cities and 864 web site results, is without question the best Legal SEO company out of all the major lawyer marketing companies, in terms of results. Justia is pretty good. Findlaw, Lawyers.com, and to a slightly lesser degree, Scorpion Web Design are all lacking in results based on the data from this study.

No matter who you hire, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your 1st page rankings. Look no further than the average rankings of all the various vendors to see that.

If you want to measure the work your SEO firm by 2 simple metrics, choose domain authority & page authority (you can always go to opensiteexplorer.org to check this). As you can see from all the charts above, these two numbers above all else, are the best great predictors of organic SEO success.

Based on these findings, I would be very careful about signing a long term agreement with an SEO firm that could not demonstrate expertise in increasing my domain and page authority. If your sales rep, account manager etc. doesn’t have a solid strategy to increase these numbers for you or worse yet, doesn’t know what these metrics are, I personally would not hire them.

If you have any questions regarding this study or the findings in it or would like to see an analysis of a particular city that was part of this study, email me at brian@elitelegalmarketing.com.

 

3 Ways Your SEO Company Could Be Sabotaging Your Business

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While perusing the second and third pages of Google for a popular legal keyword here in Austin, I noticed an abundance of lawyers who never seem to graduate from these pages.

As an SEO specialist, it is my job to know what everyone in a particular legal niche is doing (SEO wise) and pave a better path for my clients.

Therefore, consistently seeing some lawyers remain stagnant in their search engine placement for crucial keywords is quite alarming. Especially considering I’ve been tracking their progress for 6 months to a year now.

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