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Kirkland & Ellis retains all 10 qualifying trainees

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US titan’s London newbies will start on dollar-pegged salaries of £146,000

The London office of US mega-firm Kirkland & Ellis has posted a perfect retention score of 100%.

From a rookie cohort of just 10, the Gherkin-based outfit confirmed that all had put pen to paper on permanent associate deals. Today’s result is a stark improvement on Kirkland’s autumn 2017 score. On that occasion, the Chicago-headquartered firm chalked up a score of 56% (five out of nine). Legal Cheek understands the uncharacteristically low outcome was due to newly qualified (NQ) lawyers being unable to move into their department of choice.

Returning to today’s result, Kirkland didn’t provide details of the departments or offices its new recruits will qualify into.

We can, however, tell you that they’re on the verge of becoming some of the best-paid lawyers in the City. Following a fresh round of US summer rises, Kirkland boosted its London NQ dollar-pegged salaries to £146,000, up from an already impressive £138,000 (figures based on current exchange rates). Other big US players to make similar City pay moves in recent weeks include Akin Gump, Latham & Watkins and Milbank. Kirkland’s trainees currently earn a salary of £50,000 in year one, rising to £55,000 in year two.

The 2018 Firms Most List

So, cold hard cash aside, what’s it like working as a lawyer at Kirkland? The firm, which offers around ten City training contacts annually, received A*s in our Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey for training, quality of work, perks, office, canteen and social life. It could, however, only muster a D for work/life balance — a result shared by many of the top paying US players in the City.

A number of firms have now revealed their autumn scores.

Earlier this week, Taylor Wessing posted a result of 91% (21 out of 23), meanwhile, Burges Salmon and Shearman & Sterling unveiled outcomes of 96% (26 out of 27) and 85% (11 out of 13) respectively. Mayer Brown retained 80% of its rookies (eight out of 10), while magic circle duo Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May secured results of 77% (36 out of 47) and 86% (32 out of 37). Meanwhile, Travers Smith confirmed a perfect retention result of 100% (21 out of 21).

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102 Comments

Anonymous

Dolla dolla bill y’all.

(25)(0)

Anonymous

Brothers!

Sisters!

We need to tax this greed to pay for nurses, legal aid and the NHS! A windfall tax on all earnings above £35,000!

Vote Corbyn! For the many, not the few!

(5)(34)

Anonymous

You are an idiot.

(19)(1)

MC associate

being your ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ makes working for Kirkland look appealing

(2)(0)

Corbyn.Sympathiser

Agreed, brother.

It’s pure greed.

We need socialism, now.

(0)(5)

Anonymous

Eat my shit

(1)(0)

Corbyn.Sympathiser

Name a date and time and I’ll be there.

(3)(0)

Kirkland NQ

Pound just dropped. More dolla I guess.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

They are now by far the most sought after destination for law school graduates. Money aside, they are growing and have great prospects, have a great culture and treat their juniors like adults. Many of their practices are now market leaders. Just a matter of time before they outperform the magic circle, not that any of the arrogant partners in the MC see them as a threat.

(54)(11)

Anonymous

Credulous. Bullshit.

Almost every City lawyer (presumably minus those who work there) knows of their reputation for having an awful, live-in-the-office culture (weekends are not a thing, you get made a partner at 6pq but forced out at 8 pq – stuff like that).

(31)(35)

Anonymous

I’m at a US firm as a trainee. NQ pay is very nice, but trainees are paid the same as the MC and others. Yet at most US shops they’re beasted harder and oftentimes much harder. More responsibility = being treated like a crap associate working the same hours but being paid one third. NQ retention rates are misleading and probably 50% or more of my cohort, including myself, will have left to go in-house by 2-3PQE anyway.

(32)(1)

Anonymous

Which firm? Asking for a friend.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Yeeeah well played pal

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Must be Dorsey.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Outrageous criticism – CC trainees and associates in transactional seats are worked into the absolute ground, allowed to only do work confined to their yeargroup and with generally arrogant partners who are losing pitch after pitch to US firms! And the jokes on them, as still paid (albeit slightly less) at Trainee level, but then over £60k less at NQ (without the Kirkland bonuses!!)!!

(37)(1)

Anonymous

I agree – and as K&E are pretty much 90% transactional in London you don’t get any Pensions or Employment lawyers bringing the average leave time earlier…

(28)(0)

Anonymous

Not sure if that was a response to me and I can’t speak for MC firms, but personally I work until midnight or later every night. Last week I left at around 6am twice. Generally come in at 9.30 but some days 7-8 if I have a call or something. I also work every other weekend although I tend to only do about 8 hours on Saturday and about the same on Sunday.

People say it’s a myth but sadly on average you work harder in a US firm. For some people moving over from the MC, often not much harder and some about the same, but they are competent professionals who know what they’re doing. Trainees by their very nature do not.

(11)(15)

Anonymous

I work at a US firm and the simple fact is that if people are working those sorts of hours in any shop it’s because they want to or don’t know how to say no / manage people’s expectations.

(39)(2)

Anonymous

I’m afraid this is standard in a transactional role at US firms. Standard at mine and my friends Between us we make up over 8 firms. Honestly it can get busier than described above e.g. I am leaving at 3 every night for a week, working the weekend rec.
Or it can get quiet, a few months ago I was leaving at 7-8 most nights for 3 weeks. But that’s not the norm at all.

Naturally when working these hours I push back on work, look elsewhere at people’s hours in my team and other departments and other firms and it is all like this. In fact, if you count checking and responding to emails, we are always online and working.

(5)(11)

Anonymous

Transactional lawyers. Ew. Come on and join the dark-side… you know people are generally shit anyways. Might as well rack up the billables off the mutual hatred.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

3.29am, you must be a very hard-working Associate indeed.

Anonymous

Salary: £120,000

Hours worked per year: 3,000

Average hourly wage: £40 (minus all the extra expenditure associated with living in London, working unsocial hours, etc.)

Doesn’t sound so great now, does it?

(6)(6)

US Associate

Change it to ~3000-odd total hours spent at the office, including getting there and back home (i.e. time not necessarily spent billing/working) and you’re about right.

Check this page by Yale Law School out, it gives you a good idea just how realistic/unrealistic it is to reach a bonus threshold at a top US firm, and how much flesh are you going to pay for it:

https://law.yale.edu/student-life/career-development/students/career-guides-advice/truth-about-billable-hour

(4)(1)

mclaw

….Try £80,000 a year doing 2,750 hours (most MC transactional departments); roughly £29 an hour.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Eeewwww…

(0)(0)

TRUTH SIREN

People should not listen to this scaremongering. Can only assume you’re talking about US firms that take <5 trainees that’s a satellite to the US rather than its own established practice in London. The hours described above are not normal in any sense for a trainee of a US firm, other than in the build up to a signing/closing (and even that would need to be a big one/have a couple of deals on similar timelines).

(13)(3)

Anonymous

“minus those who work there” I’m pretty sure they know what their OWN reputation is like…

Money aside, if they didn’t like where they were working they would leave.

(3)(0)

mcassociate1986

I’m no expert, but I’m moving to Kirkland from an MC firm in 3/4 months time. I don’t think their intention is to “outperform the MC”. Frankly, on pay and partner compensation they’re miles ahead of MC firms (£1.5 Linklaters v £3.4m Kirkland), nor do I think they want to be anywhere as big as the MC in London. Instead, they want to cherry-pick partners from the most profitable MC practices and build on that. They definitely work very hard, but not that much harder than my current firm. Yes, Kirkland isn’t for everyone , but they’re not short of interested candidates – I went through 4 rounds of interviews and I believe they interviewed around 15/20 MC associates

(34)(2)

Anonymous

I don’t know what level you are at but Kirkland seem to be rather desperate for workforce at the junior end.

I got an interview there in their debt finance practice without even having done a finance seat at a City firm that is by no means a leader in the finance world (albeit good in other practice areas).

Granted, I did not make it to the second round but nonetheless why would they interview me if 1. I came from the wrong type of firm and 2. I didn’t have the relevant experience.

(0)(13)

Anonymous

Not desperate at all – elite US firms (esp. K&E) like to call a lot of people forward to IV so that they can pick the best in the market. You’ll hear of a lot of people having had a first round IV there but only the top class candidates get further and only the very best get offers.

(10)(3)

Anonymous

K&E = Freshfields’ finest.

(22)(1)

loljkm8

OMG ALL TEN?! THAT’S IT! THE MC IS DEAD. lol

(22)(0)

loljkm8

I feel like a great philosopher, like Rosie Williams or (if he even counts, lol) Nietzsche, making such statements as “The MC is dead”.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Is there an up to date list of the NQ salaries at the US firms Legal Cheek does not have on its list anywhere?

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Some of the luckiest trainees in the city – pretty sure they’re all glad they took Kirkland over any Magic Circle at this point!!

(18)(2)

Future trainee

Bollocks. Dechert is top

(2)(9)

Anonymous

make way for Dechert campus representative 2k18

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Dechert NQ is up to 115k – just saying

(5)(10)

Anonymous

ROFL quit lying you dong

(1)(0)

Lady Meh

NQ is actually £110,000. 1 PQE is £115,000.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

who are dechert??

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Have you not heard of the ex deputy prime ministers wife?

(6)(2)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

ROFL

(0)(0)

Anonymous

How hard is it to transfer to Kirkland as a NQ from a MC/US firm?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I did it for a bet

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Its fairly difficult. Around 4/5 rounds of interviews, and pretty high competition from a lot of magic circle talent. That being said, often NQs from smaller London firms that specialise in profane equity/corporate get the jobs as they have had to take on more responsibility (rather than what is experienced as a trainee at a huge magic circle firm)

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Profane equity! I like it, very niche area.

(18)(0)

MCseniorassoc

The reality is most MC trainees don’t want to leave. Beyond the repeated adoration of US firms in places like Legal Cheek comments sections, most would prefer to have better hours and work with frankly more likeminded people. MC employees are generally classier and more interesting people (saying this as someone who has friends who work at both).

(10)(27)

Anonymous

if you are a senior associate at a mc firm, why are you reading this article about trainees at Kirkland hahahah

(15)(2)

US NQ

Senior Assoc? How do you feel about earning less than a US firm NQ?

(17)(0)

Anonymous

I genuinely don’t mind. I’m a disputes lawyer and leave at 7-8pm on average.

(8)(5)

Anonymous

fine, but associates can go to a lot of places where you can leave at 7-8pm and earn a lot less

(4)(1)

US Arbitration Assoc

Im at a US shop in arbitration, and unless a case is heating up, I also leave around 7/8pm!

(12)(0)

US Associate

“MC employees are generally classier and more interesting people”

HA – you are exactly the reason the MC is full of turd. Please can you never leave your beloved, classy MC firm. We don’t want people like you at US shops and you sure as hell don’t sound interesting.

2/10 – would not go for beers with after work.

(36)(2)

Anonymous

Having worked in the MC I can categorically say that MC employees are not classier. What a pompous thing to say.

(25)(0)

Kirkland Future Trainee

Lit

(13)(2)

1PQE US Elite

This discussion again: let’s open up then:

US Elite,
1PQE
£145K (incl. bonus)
2,400 hours
Atmosphere among associates = good
Partner contact/atmosph = horrible
Partner prospects = lol, non existent
Ups: prestige (I deem US Elite FAR more prestigious than MC by any measure) and money.
Downs: expectation of always being available, including weekends, even if you’re not working, the anxiety you feel after not having checked your emails for 2 whole hours between 10pm and midnight on a Saturday evening is soulcrushing.

Trained with a MC, where I believe I got tortured equally as bad as I am here.

(17)(1)

Anonymous

Everyone is gonna hate on this but:

HSF/Hogan Lovells / Baker McKenzie offer a better all round ride that the MC if you don’t care about the extra 2/3 K a year and the slightly lower prestige.

– better hours
– still top class work (anyone who denies it is wrong)
– nicer atmosphere
– more chance of partnership

(12)(1)

Anonymous

Fair point, I spent my TC at HL and then chased money to a US shop and il genuinely say the atmosphere at HL was much better with still very high quality work especially in litigation. The pay at HL is competitive with the MC but I make 50 k more now than if I’d stayed at Hogan Lovells. Can’t comment on HSF or bakers

(2)(0)

Anonymous

In-house sounds better.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Could actual law students give us real insights about their perception of elite US v MC firms? I think this Money law fever is being overplayed by Legal Cheek. Most of the top mandates still go to top practices at MC firms. Surely training on these matters is what sets you up for success as a lawyer?

(0)(5)

Anonymous

Actual law student here. A real law degree, not that GDL flake nonsense. We still get the prestige of the MC rammed down our throats on a daily basis, but we all have Netflix/Amazon Prime these days and wish the UK firms were more like US firms IN the US, ie barristers and solicitors or “attorneys” as they love to be called. None of us want to just do bundles through the night just to watch some toff named tarquin who got briefed the night before trial cock up our 72 hour office grind.

A few of us with international backgrounds know Latham and Skadden easily blow the MC out of the water when it comes to global prestige, but there’s also the local BigLaw thought process. K&E may pay the most but we know that Links and A&O offer 200 training contracts a year between the two of them. That means there’s a greater chance of being considered for firms that are still major global players.

(3)(17)

Anonymous

So assuming you were offered a TC by Slaughter and May, Freshfields, Linklaters, Kirkland, Latham and Allen & Overy, how would you rank them in terms of who you would choose to train/stay with? In my day it would have been 1. Slaughters, 2. Freshfields, 3. A&O, 4. Latham, 5. Kirkland. Maybe things have changed.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

1. Slaughters/ Latham are level.
2. Kirkland.
3. Freshfields
4. A& O

(3)(16)

Anonymous

Without a doubt K&E first, then 2 – L&W, 3 – Freshfields, 4 – A&O, 5 – Slaughters

(10)(5)

Anonymous

I am a current student (top uk uni), and we get a lot of magic circle rammed down our throats because of their high marketing budgets. CC seem to live on campus for the whole of Michaelmas…

Generally US Elite TCs are considered more like gold dust. There are about 30 people in my year I know are going to magic circle.

1. Kirkland / Latham
2. Freshfields
3. A&O
4. Slaughters

But for the super-academic ones with no personality, slaughters always comes top

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Can you please elaborate on why US Elite TCs are considered like gold dust?

Money aside, is it the possibility of having a globally prestigious brand on your CV and the chance to be part of a growing office? Does this matter more than an established training program and high profile mandates?

It’s great that there are finally competitors to the MC, who once had a monopoly on talent and assumed that dribblings bits of proofreading/research to vac schemers is sufficient to get them inspired to become a trainee. Though, to be fair, trainees at MC firms do do a lot of proofreading/research.

(0)(0)

Kirkland Future Trainee

Gold dust mainly because generally there are much fewer TCs at elite US firms available – probably in total the same as just the annual intake of just one MC firm.

The top US firms also generally are considered more elite globally, with a stronger brand in the US (world’s largest legal market) and a similar brand in Hong Kong etc. This makes it a lucrative prospect – especially in a generation where US brands and companies have had such a huge influence on millennials.

Finally, I know 30 people with magic circle offers (that it’s actually a bit ridiculous – especially CC and A

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Durham?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I talked to some friends in my year who are interested in commercial law, but with no clue what they actually really want to do as a specialism. As a qualifier: Russell Group third year with a couple medium-tier London firm vac schemes (no TC offer yet) and I asked a few classmates in similar positions, as well as a couple 2nd year students. General results are as follows:

1. Slaughters
2. A&O, Freshfields and Latham. Also included here is Links and CC: I know you didn’t mention them but I heard both of them included with the A&O/Freshfields level of preference.
3. Kirkland.

Everyone I talked to said they have heard various rumblings from places like RoF and LC that Kirkland is a terrible place to work. We have also heard that it is only good if you’re passionate about private equity work. Most of us at uni level still don’t know what that actually is, but the money is hard to ignore. I know a few people with expected strong firsts and a couple big-firm vac schemes behind them, including some elite American firms, with zero intentions on ever applying to them.

Most people seem to like the MC firms’ available variety of potential areas to qualify into. Options are nice. Most people know Latham is consistently growing too and could have a respectable variety of seat/qualification spots in the near future. Again, we are only students have very limited work (and let’s be honest, life) experience.

(4)(6)

Anonymous

Yes these rankings are purely the brainwashed result of the MC milkround, deluded academic staff and too many LC articles

(9)(0)

Anonymous

The trainees at Slaughters are rubbish.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

You sound jealous of Tarquin’s professional freedom and intellect. Also receiving the brief the day before? Unlikely unless a small application or criminal work. Get a grip, the divided profession works and is here to stay from a commercial law perspective.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

I think it’s a lost opportunity for commercial law firms in the UK. A client will be billed for trial fees but they’re immediately exported to the independent barrister (who likely takes home 1/3 – 2/5 of billings after chambers fees and taxes). It would look good for the firms’ books to have those fees stay in the firm.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Only if the firms were able to provide the top-notch quality advocacy, trial strategy and knowledge of court procedure – which they simply can’t. Some firms have in house advocacy especially for arbitration, but the best trial advocates and dispute specialists will always be at the Bar.

(1)(0)

Someone who’s definitely NOT a Legal Cheek reporter

I was unsuccessful in life and was nowhere near a legal career. I now get my thrills from talking about those that achieved what i could never.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

The chosen ones

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Working in a MC firm, I think the partners are starting to recognise that white shoe firms are becoming increasingly attractive to prospective trainees. Each time we meet a vac scheme student who performed well and the partners want to offer a training contract to him/her, we always worry that the student would reject us in favour of a white shoe firm.

I hope they raise associate salaries soon. It sucks being the poor cousin to my ex colleagues who jumped to white shoe firms. Having caught up with them, I’ve learned that the beasting and type of work is the same; only difference is salary and benefits, so it feels like I’m getting the short end of the stick.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

But don’t you have better prospects at an MC firm? Not necessarily for partner but exit options in general. If you want to go in house isn’t MC experience thought to be better quality than white shoe London office experience?

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Yes it is.

(0)(8)

Anonymous

No it is not.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Just did a secondment at an investment bank and I think MC firms and top US firms are perceived to be equally good – I don’t think being in a top US firm would disadvantage you when applying for an in house role.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

People are making silly generalisations about training or in house exits etc. Simply put there is no advantage of mc firms right now except perhaps relatively lower average hours working than US and those mc hours are still quite high on the absolute level anyway. So not that much difference in time spent at the office.

When it comes to lateralling or anything, it’s all about individual body of work and practice area. There are no generalisations. In the industry it’s about your talent and value added. Sure brand and prestige of where you previously worked or trained played a role but ultimately it’s yourself being sold not the partners or profit per equity of your old firm that’s being sold. No matter where you are focus on your individual career and the best will come wherever you choose to land.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

What are the chances of me transferring to K&E as an NQ from fieldfisher

(0)(1)

Anonymous

probably fairly low, you would have to clearly beat a lot of MC/SC talent. Maybe try move halfway in between, and then give K&E a go in a few years

(2)(0)

Anonymous

halfway as in to a MC/SC?

(5)(1)

M C

Ok so I would really appreciate some advice as this is actually keeping me up at night…

I’m coming up to qualification at a Magic Circle firm. Have options in gen litigation and private equity teams where I am – I know they are very different but assume I would happily do either. Also have options with a US firm for PE. Nothing firmed up but clear indications after interviews etc

Unsure of what to do regarding firm and which practice area. Going to summarise some thoughts – would be helpful for someone to engage with them.

1. Short-term money for PE at US firm vs more sustainable, maybe longer career in litigation at current firm? I’m fairly committed with no plans to leave at say 2 PQE.

2. Work life balance better in gen litigation?

3. Exit options if I did end up wanting to move firms – better for PE? Better to stay at current firm and then move to US firm later on if I can’t climb further, or move to US firm as an NQ and just not worry about being seen to job hop?

4. In-house positions – no clue.

5. Am I going to get sacked if the US firm rolls back its operations at the first sign of trouble etc, or is that line of thinking a load of twaddle???

Would appreciate any assistance in debunking/corroborating/pushing back on the above. I understand that this is self-indulgent but this is the hardest decision I have had to make (first world problems, yes).

Hopefully others in similar positions could benefit from advice below as well.

Also appreciate comments from those who have/haven’t made the move.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

1. Depends on the US firm, if any of the following for PE, I would suggest taking the US offer:

K&E, STB, Weil, Latham, Sidley, White & Case, Skadden, Cleary

I would be skeptical of taking another US firm over your MC offer for PE. Ropes maybe too.

Re PE Vs Gen Lit – only you can decide this. Honestly, take the area you found most interesting and could see yourself doing long term. Only you know this from your personal experience.

2. Probably likely but it still often hits the fan just as much as it does in PE.

5. No – when have US firms ever done this in London and what makes you think that if there is a market downturn they would do this and your current firm would not.

Base your decision on the practice area you most enjoy ultimately. They are completely different and I get the vibe that you perhaps enjoy litigation more but having this US offer has made you turn your head toward PE.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It is difficult as it really depends on what practice area you want to go into. Just some thoughts below:

Transactional PE generally is where there is more money, and where most US firms have most of their panache/operations in London.

Litigation is probably better lifestyle, on the whole, though obviously it can be bad at times. Less about doing deals, so less in fast-paced business world. Not generally where most of the money is unless is a huge case. Potentially less prospects at the big money in long run, and obviously magic circle firms are generally banking/corporate focused.

Some questions:

Are you happy at MC firm? Are your work hours quite bad already? Are many others moving? Are people satisfied with MC management and how they are responding to competition?

Is the extra money something that you really want?

Could you deal with the thought of someone else on ur same level earning a lot more than you?

Is the US firm ‘elite’ tier (Skadden, K

(0)(0)

Anonymous

if you want to do PE, hands down an elite US firm.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Why?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

freshfields aside, its the US Elite who have a stronghold on the big-ticket PE M&A. Plus u get to be closer to a deal as a junior, getting more practical experience

(0)(0)

Anonymous

But if you want to be a PE partner wouldn’t you stay at Freshfields? As much as Kirkland boasts about its PE practice, most of its PE partners in London trained at Freshfields/Links.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Yeah because 10 years ago the practice wasn’t as big so they recruited from those who were the best at the time. It’s now an established team with large numbers coming through at all levels hence more ‘home-grown’ partners will start to emerge.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

exactly – more and more Kirkland partners are homegrown now. They’ve just had the first batch of trainees ever to go up for non-share partnership at 6PQE

(0)(0)

Anonymous

yeah, but they’re not very good lawyers. the ones trained at MC firms are far and away superior lawyers in London. get the memo – you’re being paid a fortune at Kirkland to be a service associate to laterally recruited rainmakers, without ever any hope of you actually becoming a share partner. Kirkland lawyers are shit. They exit into Goodwin or some backwater city firm.

Anonymous

What actual rubbish hahah, are you a bit bitter

Anonymous

Anonymous
Aug 6 2018 11:22am

Didn’t make it to interview then?

Anonymous

I don’t even know where to start on the comment above. Take for example the full equity partners at Sidley Austin London – used to be NSPs at Kirkland. Exit opportunities abound if you’re strategic. But if you make no effort and expect roles to fall into your lap, you’re just as screwed as a 10 year PQE senior associate in the MC.

Anonymous

yes, or a team well known for corporate, PE or debt finance

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Goodwin revenue up 13% last year to well over $1 Billion.

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.

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