Paralegal or law school mama's? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 12-16-2009, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need advice I want to go to law school! I have so many questions, questions that I need mom's to answer. and I have so many obstacles in front of me.. Please help me out
Hubby is active duty, so we are going to move every 3 years or so. Is this going to present a major problem?

Does it really matter if I get a degree on-line? from say UMUC?

Do I have to present my previous college coarse work?

I have 4 kiddos! My oldest oldest has already stated her opposition to me going back to school. They will be okay right?
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#2 of 25 Old 12-16-2009, 04:08 PM
 
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good luck, wish I had some advice to give....
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#3 of 25 Old 12-16-2009, 04:18 PM
 
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Law school is 3 years full time. There are some part-time options at night mostly, which are 4 years. Count on no life your first year -- it's an outrageous amount of work and designed to weed people out. I saw many divorces my first year of law school. There were some successes, too, like a single mom of 3 kids who had a great, supportive mother herself. She graduated summa cum laude.

With law school, it's not just the school, but taking the bar exam. I would shy away from any program that's not accredited. Moving around a lot can be difficult if you want to continue practicing law, depending on various state requirements. Licensure isn't transferable state-to-state, although some have waivers that allow you to practice after a certain period of time. And you can always work for the feds regardless of where you live, as long as you are licensed in one state.

Getting a paralegal degree would be much easier, and might be very rewarding if you like the research and writing aspects of law vs. litigation, etc.
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#4 of 25 Old 12-16-2009, 04:20 PM
 
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Oh, yes, and for law school, you must present all transcripts from all colleges. You also have to take the LSAT and submit the scores to the law school.
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#5 of 25 Old 12-17-2009, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your advice. I am feeling way out of my element and a bit overwhelmed...but I can do this!!
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#6 of 25 Old 12-18-2009, 12:47 PM
 
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I don't have too much to add to Addy's Mom's accurate description of the "mechanics" of law school. I'd just add that now is not a great time for the job market for lawyers. You really want to make sure it's what you want to do (though hopefully by the time you'd finish a program, the legal market will be in a better place).

If you have an opportunity to work or volunteer in a law office in an area that you think you might want to practice in, it'd give you a good idea if you want to make the commitment.

I just went back to law school full time after taking a semester off to have my baby, and while I'm in my second year I was still overwhelmed. Of course everyone handles the workload differently, but I found it much more challenging than I expected. I also worked at an internship this summer, which I found MUCH easier than going back to classes. But maybe if your kids are older, it'd be easier than with a young infant.

On the other hand, I find it very rewarding. If I were in your shoes, I'd go visit a couple of law schools, sit in on classes, and see if you can find students who are parents to talk to (an admissions office should be able to connect you with students with families).

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#7 of 25 Old 12-21-2009, 06:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by boobyjuicex3 View Post
Hubby is active duty, so we are going to move every 3 years or so. Is this going to present a major problem?

Does it really matter if I get a degree on-line? from say UMUC?
1) YES. YES YES YES. DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES.

2) I think UMUC would be a great place to get a paralegal certificate.


I went to Catholic (there in DC) and married Huz (who is active duty) during my 3rd year of law school. Unless you are independently wealthy or your Huz is nearing retirement, this will not work. You cannot expect to make enough $ to pay the student loans you'll have if you are taking a new bar exam every 2-4 years. Its just not worth it. PM me if you want more info on this.

As for UMUC, it is what you make of it. Huz finished his bachelor's there while he was stationed in DC and is now attending Univ. of TX for his MBA (top-ranked accounting program). Get good grades and the doors will open for you.

Good luck with your decision and thanks to you and your hubby for your service!

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#8 of 25 Old 12-27-2009, 05:10 AM
 
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I'll tell you right now, not a single lawyer in my circle of friends is employed right now, well, at least not as a lawyer. One did get a job as a bank teller so they wouldn't starve, and another one is doing odd construction jobs. *grimace*
They say if you really love something, the money doesn't matter, but honestly, unless you can afford to pay for the schooling, pay for the bar fees, etc, just for the FUN of it, you might want to think really long and hard about trying to enter such a difficult field right now.

CPST
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#9 of 25 Old 12-27-2009, 12:37 PM
 
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I'll tell you right now, not a single lawyer in my circle of friends is employed right now, well, at least not as a lawyer. One did get a job as a bank teller so they wouldn't starve, and another one is doing odd construction jobs. *grimace*
They say if you really love something, the money doesn't matter, but honestly, unless you can afford to pay for the schooling, pay for the bar fees, etc, just for the FUN of it, you might want to think really long and hard about trying to enter such a difficult field right now.

I was going to post just this. I'm running out the door, will try to come back later to flesh out my post, but the market for legal services is a MESS right now, with many, many experienced lawyers unemployed due to layoffs.

Even if you could afford to pay for the schooling, for my part, I can think of lots of other things that I'd rather do with $150,000 . . . bet you could too!

ETA: Okay, I'm back. I'll apologize upfront, I might be longwinded or duplicate other posts.

First, just to clarify that when you say that you want to go to law school, you want to obtain a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. That's the common understanding of what going to law school leads to. I ask because you mentioned UMUC in your intial post, and, to my knowledge, UMUC doesn't award a JD degree.

Now, my biases: I didn't have a family while in law school, and frankly don't see how I could have managed. Others did, though, so I don't think that's an insurmountable obstace, just depends on your situation. Others will have more insight on this.

I'm strongly of the opinion that the only reason to go to law school is to get the credential that will allow you to sit for a bar exam so that you can be a lawyer and practice and/or teach law. There are exceptions here and there, and many people "know somebody" who never practiced but had a successful career in "X." It's my theory that those folks would likely have had those careers regardless. The thinking that a JD is a "just a good degree to have" or "opens doors even if you don't ever practice" was rampant in the 90s; I still hear it sometimes. I strongly disagree.

So, that takes me to my first questions: do you know why you want to be a lawyer? Have you worked with lawyers? Do you have an idea of what they do on a day-to-day basis? Why do you think that you'd like to do that? If any of your answers are no, I'd take advantage of any informal or formal mentoring/career counseling services that I could to try to get more information on this front. Your college might offer such a program, I regularly let students from my college "shadow" me for a day to get a sense of what I did.

Online law school? In my opinion, don't do it. To sit for a bar, most states require that you graduate from a law school that's accredited by the American Bar Association and no online program currently has ABA accreditation. There are exceptions, California, and I believe, DC, will allow folks with degrees from non-accredited schools take their bar exams. But they have to jump through additional hoops -- take additional tests, or complete significant course work at an ABA accredited school. Here's a link to FAQs on the ABA's site that might help with accreditation questions.

As I think a PP mentioned, this issue also affects your ability to move from place to place. This article might be helpful for understanding these issues in a general sense, though I can't vouch for its accuracy or completeness.

Law school admissions are competitive, you'd have to take the LSAT and disclose all of the prior coursework that the law school applications called for. In my day this was all your post H.S. work at any institution, and I can't imagine it's changed. This is a serious requirement, failing to comply can have repercussions down the road. The guy in the linked story eventually had his license to practice suspended for three years, in part because he didn't disclose he'd failed out of med school.

Argh, sorry to have written a book, and though I have more thoughts I'll stop now. Please feel free to PM or post back with any more questions, I'd be happy to answer if I can.
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#10 of 25 Old 12-28-2009, 01:28 PM
 
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Unless you have a burning desire to go to law school and PRACTICE law, I wouldn't do it. As PP have mentioned, it is expensive and time consuming. Also, the first year did have a remarkable way of breaking up relationships. I think that of the people in my first year class, not one of us finished law school with the person we started with. No I'm wrong, one person did. Others quit because it was taking too much of a toll on their families.

Another thing worth mentioning, must people make the mistake of thinking lawyers=money making machines. That couldn't be further from the truth. My husband and I are both attorneys and we make decent money, but not more than we could make in other jobs. To make the big bucks, you have to be willing to work 60+ hour weeks in cities, and we just aren't willing to do that. We put family first.

Finally, I really do like my job and like the practice of law. But the thing I didn't anticipate when I went to law school is that I don't like most lawyers. Some are really awesome, but many choose this career because they are argumentative people who always have to be right. Those traits may make for ok lawyers, but they make for terrible coworkers and opposing counsel.

PM me if you have any questions more specifically, I work in government and DH works in private practice, so I could answer any questions you have regarding that.

Good luck.

Kristin , married to DH , mama to DS 8/4/09 and EDD 6/24/11
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#11 of 25 Old 12-29-2009, 07:23 PM
 
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I went to law school with two children. The youngest was 5 when I started. I do NOT recommend going to law school with children younger than that. It isn't flexible, and it is time consuming.

You got some pretty good advise in previous comments. I want to stress how expensive law school is. I am pretty much "stuck" in a job I hate, because I have almost $100K in loans.
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#12 of 25 Old 12-29-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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I went to law school with a stepdaughter, who was with us on weekends. I started when she was 3 and finished when she was 6.

It was doable, but I'm not sure how doable it would have been if she'd been here full-time, or with more than one, or if I was doing it alone. My husband was an absolute ROCK. (We were not married, but we lived together the entire time I was in law school.) My 1L class didn't see a ton of break-ups/ divorce, especially among long-term couples, parents, and those of us over 30--the break-ups were among younger, newer couples, and those who had just finished undergrad.

A few of my classmates had babies during 3L; that seemed to be a decent time.

Another thing: I managed a three-year, full scholarship, and every day, I am more and more grateful. I can't imagine having a four-figure loan payment on top of everything right now.

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#13 of 25 Old 12-30-2009, 03:31 PM
 
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I had a baby early on in law school, and found it doable. I had a strong academic background and I'm a big multitasker though, so I don't know if I'd say everyone could/should do it! And I did finish law school with the partner I started with.

In your case, I'd consider becoming a paralegal. They can make good money, the training isn't so arduous and expensive, and I expect that your husband's active duty status wouldn't be as big a deal. You really don't want to come out of school as a lawyer with huge loans and no way to pay them off, and the different bar admission requirements of the various states would really be a hindrance. Being a paralegal could also be more family-friendly!
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#14 of 25 Old 01-02-2010, 07:20 PM
 
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I am a lawyer and I agree it would be hard to do with kids. I can't imagine an online degree program because so much of the training involves advocacy - in the classroom when you are called on. Even if such a program exists I don't imagine it will be looked favorably upon by employers in this job market. I have young kids and have chosen not to work now because it's really hard to find a family friendly position - and I left a 2 partner firm run by two moms of three where I worked part time. I can't imagine it being better than that...and it was too much. I would totally suggest the paralegal degree at this stage in your life.

Katherine mother to DS 8/03 and DD1 9/06 and DD2 6/10
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#15 of 25 Old 01-04-2010, 03:10 AM
 
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I'm a military wife and have had three friends go through law school.

The moving every 3 years - it's what "they" say but in reality it's 3 1/2 here, 2 1/2 here, 1 there, and so on. And transfer season - it won't always line up with class start/stop times and when you can take LSAT and BAR exams.

I'm assuming you are looking to use the post 9-11 GI Bill $$ which is great, BUT, it is 36 months total and if you drop a class and have to re-take they don't pay for that. Also, the Military expects your husband's job to be #1 in your family - yes it is mysoginistic and annoying, but that is how it is. So when you have finals and need to study? He might have overnight duty and your kids are sick. Studying for the BAR? He could be deployed....etc. etc. etc.

The only friend I have who is currently succeding has a full-time live-in Nanny approved by housing and it's still an amazing struggle. Know how your kids get clingier to you when DH is deployed? Will only get worse when you are busy with law school. She wants to practice federal and applied for the internship with JAG - yeah, the hardest one to get and the last ones to give out their answers since they are beholden to the beauracracy of our system and congressional budgeting, etc.

Yeah, paralegal might work a lot better as a military spouse and you have the ability to set family-friendly hours and still make a great wage.

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#16 of 25 Old 01-07-2010, 12:34 AM
 
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Everyone has already chimed in with some great advice. I'm a 2L now and though I think I made the best decision I could at the time (summer 2007 through spring 2008), I would not make the same decision if I knew the economy was going to tank. I go to a top 10 law school and MANY of my classmates do not have summer internships lined up and many of those who graduated last May that had jobs, got their start dates deferred indefinitely. I honestly cannot imagine that getting an online law degree would be worth the paper its printed on in this economy.

I have 2 children living with me this year, 3 last year (2 more that stayed to finish high school) and I absolutely cannot imagine trying to do it without a spouse with whom I had about 1 fight a year prior to law school. We fight several times a week now due to stress. I think we'll make it, but I'm not absolutely positive.

I know they say law school is hard, but really, it is HARD.

There's a thread somewhere in here on lawyer mamas with some student mama's on it too. I'll see if I have it subscribed and edit with a link if I find it.
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#17 of 25 Old 01-07-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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I've been a practicing lawyer for ten years. I like being a lawyer but it's a brutal job market and many work environments are equally tough. It's a very competitive field because there are so many lawyers out there. But good paralegals are in high demand. Sometimes I think I would have been happier becoming a paralegal - you still work in an intellectually stimulating environment with smart people but your skills are more appreciated and the hours are better. And the pay is pretty good. Frankly, I wouldn't recommend law school to anyone but the most devoted, all-I've-ever-wanted-to-be-is-a-lawyer with a clear career path. Or if someone else were paying.
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#18 of 25 Old 10-05-2011, 08:39 PM
 
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Law school takes some serious time to get through. If I was in your situation, I would definitely go get your certificate and find some paralegal jobs. You will be in the law profession and will be loving life!

 

 

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#19 of 25 Old 10-08-2011, 12:10 PM
 
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PPs gave great advice.  On-line is a no-go if you are moving....each state has a separate bar and just about all require an accredited school (onlines are not). As for after, you can waive into some, not all, state bars but it usually requires practice experience to do so.  Most law schools are expensive (though many state ones are much more reasonable).  There are jobs out there, but right now there are not a lot of jobs that will pay over $100K and let you have any flexibility in your life....  Law school itself can be a slog, though I had a blast (while working hard)....note however I was pre-motherhood then.  There are a lot of things to consider -- can you go by an admissions office or two of a local law school? That might give you helpful perspective!


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#20 of 25 Old 10-12-2011, 10:24 AM
 
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Lawyers need to practice in a fairly fixed location. You do NOT want to take the bar every few years and only a few states offer reciprocity. Even when they do, it is a lengthy process.

 

The legal market is very soft right now, only the most qualified law students from the best law schools are getting offers. You must go to a accredited law school if you want to get hired anywhere. Some states allow you to take the bar without doing so, but you probably still couldn't get hired. Some big firms will hire similarly qualified people as paralegals. Not a great investment.

 

Paralegal requirements also vary a lot by state but at least the bar isn't involved. If you knew your likely locations, you could check out the requirements and find out if you skills/qualifications would be portable.

 

If you are interested in the law but don't want to practice, you might consider law librarainship. Your MLS would transfer between states and you wouldn't have to have a law degree. Experience, though is key, and that can be hard to get.

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#21 of 25 Old 10-12-2011, 06:03 PM
 
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Do NOT get a law degree online.  To be a licensed attorney you have to graduate from an accredited school (except some states like Cali, but not very many people pass that beast of a bar exam - and VERY few from a non-accredited program pass), and I'm not sure how you would learn what you needed to learn through an online program.  It's SUPER intense, the first year is KILLER (don't expect to see your family much that year unless you are brilliant), and I would not have survived without the real support of classmates in person. 

 

I was single my first year, had a baby in the middle of my second year, split with my BF my third year and became a single mom to a 10mo, and then graduated one semester late, and got LUCKY and landed my dream job.  It was NOT easy, and at times it was pure TORTURE.  If you don't have TONS of family support (I don't know how old your children are), its a really tough road - and my family was 3,000miles away, so I didn't have much help. 

 

I would not go to law school if I could do it over again, even though it did land me my dream job (but I'm not going to practice, it was just an alumni connection that landed me a policy position).

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#22 of 25 Old 10-24-2011, 12:11 PM
 
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I am not a mother, but am a new lawyer looking to start a family.  Law school is insanely difficult and if you did not have a full time nanny or a significant other at home to take care of your children for a good 4-5 hours a day while you study and do homework, i'm not sure you could make it work in law school.  There are many schools that will let you go part time, but each class is very time consuming - for example, even if you're a fast reader, it will take up to an hour to read 10 pages, and most classes have 30-80 pages of reading each week.  So i fyou were part time and taking 2 classes, at the school i went to classes were 3 hours each, then the homework on top of that would be a minimum of 8 hours of reading - and this is not including studying for finals, which is additional work in memorizing and doing practice tests.  Also, like many have already mentioned, it is not a great market right now for attorneys - I know many people that I graduated with who are up to their necks in student loans and not employed in the legal field.  I am only making 1/2 of what my firm pays associates, because i was hired in at a different title than "associate" - no difference other than in pay. 

 

Prior to going to law school I was a paralegal and had been a legal secretary.  I would strongly suggest going this route.  As a paralegal you get to do a lot of the same "fun" work, but you have none of the liability and a fraction of the student loans/school time commitment.  Also, as a paralegal working for the goverment, I was making just $10k less than what I make now, had great benefits, and never worked overtime.  Start as a paralegal and see if it's for you, when your children are a bit older you can look again at going to law school, maybe the economy will be back on the up then too and it would be more worth your time. 

 

good luck!

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#23 of 25 Old 10-24-2011, 12:14 PM
 
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I forgot to add - if you need to move every 3 years, unless you are working in Federal court or as an intellectual property law attorney (patents, trademarks), you will need to either take the bar exam or be admitted under that state's requirments for every state you move to. 

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#24 of 25 Old 10-24-2011, 12:15 PM
 
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I forgot to add - if you need to move every 3 years, unless you are working in Federal court or as an intellectual property law attorney (patents, trademarks), you will need to either take the bar exam or be admitted under that state's requirments for every state you move to. 

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#25 of 25 Old 10-27-2011, 08:25 AM
 
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Hi,

 

Thanks for posting this question. I have been wondering about law school, too. It would be a very long shot in my case, since I have a career I like and am just looking for "add-on" legal studies/experience to boost the career I already have. This thread has certainly given me pause!

 

Currently, I am enrolled in a paralegal certificate program through my local community college. Just to compare the cost - I pay about $250 per class plus maybe $200 for (used) books for each class, and the program requires 8 classes (4 requirements, 4 electives), so the entire certificate will cost me roughly $3,600. In my case, I plan to take more electives, so it might be $4,800 or so, but at that amount, I can pay as I go. Some of the women in my class are career-changers and have gotten scholarships, so it can even be less. I just looked up another university in town that offers a paralegal program, and theirs costs about $10,000 - still a good deal. Online classes are not for me, I need the personal interaction, which has been very rewarding. If you will be looking for a job in the field, don't discount the networking opportunities, either, since after all, the lecturers are lawyers themselves.

 

I have a master's degree in another field, and I have to say that in no way is this program a walk in the park just because it is a certificate or at a community college, so I wouldn't be concerned about not being challenged just because it's not a JD. While challenging, it is do-able at one class at a time while I am working about 20-30 hrs./wk. plus taking care of a family (2 school-age children) & our activities. I would have to give up an activity (I teach in a kids' program on Saturdays) or make other childcare arrangements to take more classes than that. In general, the research and writing is very interesting. I was surprised to learn what schiljm said above - even if you are used to reading academic material, reading court opinions and similar material takes a *long* time. You definitely need to carve out chunks of quiet time for the reading. I find it easy to work with background noise otherwise, but I find that I can't tolerate very much noise at all while reading legal stuff.

 

Maybe the lawyers here can comment more authoritatively on the job prospects for paralegals, but I have heard that more work is being handed over to paralegals to do simply because they are cheaper than lawyers, but I don't know that from personal experience.


Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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