Gabriel Teninbaum began his legal career by attending law school at night while serving in the U.S. Secret Service....
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
A few years ago, having technology courses at law schools was unheard of. But recently schools have been offering more and more tech opportunities. In this episode of The Legal Toolkit, host Jared Correia talks to Gabe Teninbaum, professor of legal writing at Suffolk Law, about the work Suffolk is doing to encourage innovation, including programs, technology courses, and internship opportunities. In the second segment, they discuss Gabe’s website, Spaced Repetition, and his take on topics like access to justice, process improvement, and legal process innovation.
Gabriel Teninbaum is a professor of legal writing at Suffolk University Law School in 2007, leading Suffolk Law’s legal technology and innovation work, including directing the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation.
The Legal Toolkit
Encouraging Innovation in Law School
Intro: Welcome to The Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm, with your host, Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Welcome to The Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. I am actually with other human beings today, which is unusual for me. I am wearing pants and I am podcasting live from Suffolk University Law School.
If you are a returning listener, welcome back; if you are a first time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener.
Now, as always, I am your host Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the Founder and CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting and technology services for law firms. Check us out at HYPERLINK “http://www.redcavelegal.com/”redcavelegal.com to find out more.
You can also buy my book, ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’, from the American Bar Association on iTunes, at Amazon, and you could probably find an extra copy at my mom’s house.
Here on the Legal Talk Network we provide you each month with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit so that your practices will become more and more like best practices.
In this episode, we are going to talk about some of the innovations that are taking place at Suffolk University Law School.
But before I introduce today’s guest, let me take a moment to thank our sponsors.
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So this morning for your listening pleasure I have Gabriel Teninbaum. Gabe, shall I do, Gabe?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, let’s do Gabe.
Jared Correia: All right Gabe Teninbaum. We are really informal today despite the fact that we are wearing pants. So I am going to trial something different today. Usually I read a bio but I am kind of bored with that. So Gabe, can you tell the folks a little bit about you and what you do?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, glad to. First of all, Jared, great to be with you and this is the first time I have ever been interviewed by someone wearing a throwback jersey, let alone a 1970s Fred Lynn Throwback Jersey. It’s been pretty exciting stuff.
All right, so what I do is I work here at Suffolk Law School in Boston and I am a member of the faculty. I am a professor of Legal Writing, but what I spend most of my time on nowadays is on legal technology and innovation.
So we have what’s called the Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation. Then we have an academic concentration, sort of like an undergraduate major in Legal Tech & Innovation, and that’s my show.
And what that means is I spend a lot of time with students and a lot of times with graduates and people in the practice of law helping them think about what it means to be a lawyer nowadays and in the future.
Jared Correia: All right Gabe. Well, welcome and thanks for taking the time. So let’s talk a little bit more about the Suffolk thing, because I have worked with Suffolk Law, and I am an alumnus of Suffolk Law, believe it or not. They still let me in the building.
So can you talk a little bit about what you are doing in terms of legal technology at Suffolk?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, glad to. So we have this really exciting program for our students and we try to bring others into, but the idea is to get every single one of our students thinking about what it means to embrace technology and innovation.
So we have this concentration where students who choose to can take a series of defined courses in things like document automation, expert systems, process improvement/project management. They learn specific skills that they can take into the workplace that frankly not very many lawyers have. So the idea is that they leave this place with just a unique skill set.
Then the other thing we try to do is get folks’ experiences along the way.
So part of the concentration is that they complete an internship in a law firm doing legal tech or in say a legal tech startup. And the experiences these students have are just like bananas. I wish I had these opportunities when I was in law school.
Jared Correia: Jealous?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah. And it’s showing on the back end too. So we have graduated a few classes. Dean Perlman, Andy Perlman started this program before he became Dean and then I replaced him as the Director, and since graduating a few classes we have had basically a 100% employment rate for people that go into legal tech and innovation.
So we have people working at big firms, we have people working at legal tech startups, and then frankly, we have people that have gone to work for traditional firms that are using the sort of skills that we teach in traditional marketplace. So it’s really been cool.
Jared Correia: That’s good. So whether they are going into legal tech, whether they are going into traditional legal, they find a space. That’s awesome.
Gabriel Teninbaum: They find a space, yeah.
Jared Correia: So let’s talk about our mutual friend Andy Perlman.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah.
Jared Correia: Andy and I used to talk a lot before he became Dean, but now he is big time. Do you still talk to him?
Gabriel Teninbaum: You have got to text him now.
Jared Correia: You have got to text him, that’s what you have got to do. All right, I will text him. No, Andy is a great guy. So talk a little bit about what he is doing.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Sure. So in addition to the stuff like running a major law school, we are still one of the biggest law schools in the country, and other stuff like having like a successful family life with a bunch of kids at home, Andy is involved with the ABA Center for Innovation.
So he is sort of the person that the people at the Center report to and he is sort of the representative of the American Bar Association on Innovation. So they are doing just remarkable work.
One of the projects that we are working on now is a Hate Crimes App and we are working on it with a bunch of other partners; the ABA, Stanford, Curo, our friends Nicole Bradick and Chad Burton and others are working on this project to create an app to help capture and give information about hate crimes. So that’s the kind of thing that Andy is doing at the ABA Center for Innovation.
They are also working on a cool project to get graduates of law schools, including people like graduates of Suffolk, involved right after graduation with fellowships so that they can plan for a career in innovation. And the reality is that we give our students a great opportunity to hit the ground running right after law school, but there are like 200 some odd law schools in US and 190 of them don’t enter this space at all.
So there are real opportunities that Andy is creating at the ABA, and of course the ABA stuff is different. He is doing great stuff here at the law school too.
Jared Correia: Yeah, absolutely. No, that’s really cool. And this is like — I don’t know that a lot of people know about this who listen, but this is a fairly recent thing for law schools to be doing.
Like when I was in law school, even like 15 years ago, there was not even a mention of this and that was probably true even five years ago.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Wasn’t even a mention. There were a few schools that had JD/MBA programs. So if you were a really savvy student, you could over on the MBA side say like, oh, I am going to take a class in Lean Six Sigma and then think about how it might apply to law, but the idea of a law school having these sorts of courses in its catalogue was a nonfactor a few years ago, and now our catalogue has, I don’t know, 15 or 20 courses that are in really, really sophisticated tech and innovation topics.
I mean, we teach students to code, we teach students how to start a virtual law practice for unbundled legal services, and it’s not just high-level talk, we are in there teaching them the actual tools, how to do it, so that they can do it on their own or go into an organization and help that organization modernize.
Jared Correia: It makes sense. Lawyers have always had so many useful transferable skills, but they always applied them to substantive law practice previously. There is not necessarily a reason that you have to do that.
Gabriel Teninbaum: And we are still — by the way, we are still doing those things at Suffolk Law School, so my other affiliation here is the Legal Practice Skills Program.
Jared Correia: So still apply to Suffolk if you want to do substantive legal practice.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Well, look, I mean we are the only school — we are the only school in the US that has — of the US News rankings, we are the only school that has four programs ranked in the Top 25. My other affiliation is the Legal Practice Skills Program which helps students think about legal analysis; it’s ranked number 6 in the country. So it’s not that we are not doing these other cool things, it’s that we are doing extra, extra cool things.
Jared Correia: That’s good that you memorized those rankings, kudos to you.
Gabriel Teninbaum: I practiced.
Jared Correia: The administration must love that. Now, let me ask you about something called space repetition. I am going to be honest with you I have no idea what the hell that is. So can you tell me a little bit about it and how it applies to civil law?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah. Sure. So I have been working on a project for the last few years and the product of it is a website called HYPERLINK “http://www.spacedrepetition.com” spacedrepetition.com.
Jared Correia: Space, see, I even got it wrong, space with a d.
Gabriel Teninbaum: HYPERLINK “http://www.spacedrepetition.com” spacedrepetition.com. So spaced repetition is a science, and basically it works like this. When we study traditionally, like we cram, we try to learn a whole bunch of information at once and when we stop studying we very, very quickly lose that knowledge.
Spaced repetition instead says, well, look, why don’t you just kind of look it over once and then rate how well you think you know this information. And then based on how well you say you know it, our computer software will tell you when to review it again.
Jared Correia: That’s interesting.
Gabriel Teninbaum: And what happens is that, and this has been studied to death, there are 250 peer reviewed studies on science and spaced repetition, what happens is people learn way more in way less net time by using spaced repetition.
So you would expect someone to remember a fact — they have about a 20% likelihood of remembering a fact a month after studying it if they crammed it. They would have a 92% chance of remembering it a month later if they use spaced repetition.
So Suffolk supported this and I created a website called Spaced Repetition, got together a bunch of law professors and said, look, you guys are specialists in these various bar exam topics, let’s create content for students and then put it on top of this platform.
So it’s starting to take hold, there are about 3,700 users nationally. We have had some really good results. There is one law school that used it this past year, offered it to their entire graduating class and said, look, we will buy it for you. You have got to promise to use it, and if you promise to use it you can have an account. If you are not going to use it, we are not going to buy an account. Most of the students took them up on it, some did not, this is across their entire class. And students who used it passed the bar at a 19.2% higher rate than those that didn’t.
Jared Correia: Oh, that’s awesome.
Gabriel Teninbaum: So like that’s a real impact, that changes lives and that raises the school’s bar passage rate. So this site, HYPERLINK “http://www.spacedrepetition.com” spacedrepetition.com is something I have been working on for a couple of years and it’s really sort of a passion project.
Jared Correia: All right, so folks go to HYPERLINK “http://www.spacedrepetition.com” spacedrepetition.com to check it out. I solved that problem when I was in school by just not studying.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, that works — well, it doesn’t work, but it produces consistent results, you can say that.
Jared Correia: I graduated. All right, let’s talk a little bit about another school. So you are working with Yale as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are doing over there?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, sure. So I am spending part of the year this year as a visiting fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. So I am there every Thursday and I spend the whole day down there and it is just awesome.
So ISP is a program that works at the intersection of law, society and technology. So things like thinking about how algorithms affect everyday people and how — what the legal impacts are of algorithms, blockchain and Bitcoin, thinking about legal regimes that might apply to those. Thinking about things like freedom in an era where technology is changing fast and what it looks like to have the Freedom of Information Act when there’s access to storage of all the documents that are associated with it.
So I am at Yale every Thursday and it’s just been a remarkable experience, not just because of the kind of things that this group talks about, but the kind of people that are associated with it. And they are of course professors and PhDs and people within the legal discipline, but the really interesting thing, to me at least, surprising has been that some of the best — or at least to me the most interesting thinkers have been people from like totally different disciplines.
So there’s a woman who is a Russian/Danish artist who is a member of this program and she just has the greatest ideas about this sort of intersectional work.
Jared Correia: Are you sure this isn’t a cult. I just want to make sure.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Well, we will see if I can extricate myself at the end of the year, then the proof will be in the pudding.
Jared Correia: Don’t drink any Kool-Aid that anyone hands you. Go ahead, do you want to say anything more about that?
Gabriel Teninbaum: No, I don’t know if there is anything more to say.
Jared Correia: After I went to the Jim Jones level, yeah, I understand. So this is all great stuff that you are doing at Suffolk and at Yale. You are at Yale on Thursdays, Thursday is like taco night at my house, so big doings.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Well, I get home in time for taco night.
Jared Correia: Oh, that’s good.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah. We do veg taco nights at home, so we do tofu tacos.
Jared Correia: Oh, nice, I would love to do a joint taco night one night, we should make that happen.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Don’t bring any of that beef over to my house.
Jared Correia: You got it. Unfortunately, we have to take a break at this time and we will be back soon however with more from Gabe Teninbaum, Professor at Suffolk University Law School.
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Jared Correia: Hey, thanks for sticking with us through the break. At this point we have got more with Gabe Teninbaum, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.
So we talked a little about what’s happening with Gabe at Suffolk and Yale to start with and in the second half of the podcast we are going to ask him about even more interesting things.
So can you talk a little bit about access to justice and legal aid at this point in time?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah. So one of the things that we like to see and one of the things we like to build on is teaching students technologies that are going to help them in their law practice or whatever they do in the delivery of legal services, and we always need projects to work on, we always need sort of a platform to teach them on. So we work hard to teach students technology and to get them trained up by doing access to justice projects.
So let me tell you about what actually we have going in a couple of days. There’s a new website called HYPERLINK “http://www.masslegalanswersonline.org” masslegalanswersonline.org, HYPERLINK “http://www.masslao.org” masslao.org. And other states have this sort of project too, but it’s new to Massachusetts. And the idea is low income people can write in questions to this website in a secure way. Volunteer lawyers answer the questions after doing legal research, and it’s a way to get more people more legal assistance in a way they just would never have access to before.
So what we have decided to do here is to engage our students in that process. So on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, every single one of our 1L students is going to take part in that project.
And what we have done is we have been working with the parent organization for this website, which is Mass Law Reform Institute. And we have been working with those people to identify questions that are appropriate for first year law students. So we are going to run a research exercise. We of course want to teach our students real life research, right, that’s important but we want them to think about access to justice and legal technology too.
So the way that we are going to do it is they are going to do a 55-minute real-time legal research project where they answer one of these real questions that’s coming through the website. And then we have a system set up so that it’s done safely, so that there’s a lawyer that vets it before one of these 1Ls is unleashed on the world.
Jared Correia: Yeah, never trust the 1Ls.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Right. But we have safeguards in place. So this has been a really, really important theme to what we are doing at Suffolk Law is not to teaching students how to be great lawyers, but to teach them part of that is using technology to help people who wouldn’t otherwise get access to legal services, and this project is just one example of that. I am really excited about it.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I mean the Access to Justice Legal Aid Community becomes sort of a laboratory or it can for a lot of these legal tech innovations, so that’s great that you are using it that way.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, my hope is that it’s a big success. Come back in a week and I will let you know. And then what we will do is frankly we will put together a blueprint. We will say, look, here’s exactly how we did it, because there is no reason that Rhode Island Legal Answers Online or California Legal Answers Online shouldn’t do the exact same thing with their law students, because I mean who loses in that deal. You have students that learn tech. You have students that appreciate access to justice and pro bono work, and then you have these organizations which are understaffed and underfunded get a whole bunch of free good stuff.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Gabriel Teninbaum: That’s what we are all going to do.
Jared Correia: All right, so now let’s talk a little bit about process improvement, which is something I know you are passionate also about. Can you explain that a little bit?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Sure. So before there was process improvement, there was just sort of a series of technicians that worked on problems in the marketplace. So the easiest example to think about is the manufacturer of cars, and it’s the one you hear the most often.
So before Henry Ford and the assembly line, it took about 12 hours to make a car. After Henry Ford and the assembly line, it took about 90 minutes, it was a higher quality product and it was done more cheaply.
So that sort of assembly line mentality is what’s at the basis of process improvement and project management. So in the, I guess it was the 90s, a couple of major companies started thinking about those assembly line technologies for their own use. I think Motorola was one of them and I can’t remember the others involved, but there were others involved, and they created sort of a way to think about these problems called Lean and Six Sigma.
Lean relates to improving processes, being more efficient and taking less steps and getting the right hands on projects. And Six Sigma has to do with making less errors. So we have a wonderful adjunct professor at the Law School, Catherine MacDonagh, who is one of the world’s leading experts on Lean Sigma as applied to law.
Jared Correia: To legal, yeah.
Gabriel Teninbaum: And it’s a funny thing, the way that people demonstrate competence or the way they advertise competence, their credential is a belt, like a karate belt.
Jared Correia: Yes, I have heard of this weird thing, but please explain further.
Gabriel Teninbaum: We have students who go through these courses and they will very proudly show up at my office and say, I have got a yellow belt, and what that means is, is that they are good and they are knowledgeable in all the sort of basic tools related to process improvement and project management.
And we have dozens and dozens and dozens of students who have come through this place who understand the principles of process improvement and project management and it has led to fantastic things.
So let me give one example. Liberty Mutual is an auto insurance company and an insurer you guys know about and the biggest employer in Massachusetts.
Jared Correia: Oh, is that true? I didn’t know that.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Of any company based in Massachusetts, they employ more people around the country. And they have a couple of problems headed this way. This is me editorializing, not them.
Jared Correia: Yes, yes, go ahead.
Gabriel Teninbaum: But they have got things like driverless cars, and when you write policies for auto insurance that’s going to impact your business. So they have started to spend some real energy thinking about how they can diversify and how they can create additional streams of revenue and how they can just be smarter.
So when they learned that we had a process improvement and project management track and students that were involved in that, they got together with us, Andy Perlman and I and folks from Liberty Mutual sat down and said, how can we make this work for everyone?
So we have a new relationship with Liberty Mutual, where they are hiring our students for summer clerkships, for externships, and assigning them to their innovation group, with the idea being that these students are specially qualified to go work on thinking about how to improve processes and how to do things more effectively.
And it’s also led to full-time employment for students. So we have a number of students who have gone out and just gotten jobs. We have one great student, our inaugural Legal Tech student actually is at Davis Wright Tremaine’s De Novo Group, which is really doing a great job.
We have another student who has worked at DWT extensively over the years as a contractor. We have other people who are now scrum masters for legal tech startups, which is sort of a spin-off technology that people use.
Jared Correia: For a while I thought that was like a position in rugby.
Gabriel Teninbaum: It might be.
Jared Correia: But I finally looked it up on like Wikipedia.
Gabriel Teninbaum: So process improvement and project management is something that we have become really involved in and I hope to scale it even larger, because it’s just an opportunity. And incidentally, not all of our students want to do legal tech, some of them come here and say, look, I want to defend OUI cases or be a family law lawyer, and that’s a great thing, and I love to find tools like process improvement and project management that will be useful to anyone and that’s a win all around now.
Jared Correia: Yeah, it’s great. The more skills you can bring to bear, the better. The thing I like about like the Purple Belt Six Sigma people is that they are not likely to kick your ass like real Purple Belts, they are more likely to just take out a calculator.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Well, there’s no correlation, they might still be able to do that.
Jared Correia: They might still be able to. That’s a good point.
Gabriel Teninbaum: But the Lean Six Sigma Belt probably isn’t going to help them do that.
Jared Correia: That’s right. All right, can you talk a little bit about legal process innovation, which is a little different and a project you are engaged in right now on that front with Suffolk.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, so over time, I spend an increasing amount of time with law firms and people at legal departments and a lot of people have good ideas and they are testing good ideas, and the question that we have to sort of deal with is, how can we codify this? In other words, what set of principles can we lay out so that people who are interested in innovation at law firms can do it better? And the reality is there are a lot of people out there that say, I know we need to do something, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what roadmap to look for.
So a project I have recently sort of become involved in and the project is evolving is to actually lay out a set of principles. And one of the principles is seek feedback and make improvements, and in that vein it started out as the 10 Principles of Legal Innovation. I asked a whole bunch of questions. I am proud to announce that it’s now the 11 Principles of Legal Innovation in Version 2.0.
Jared Correia: That’s more than the Commandments by the way, I just want to throw that out there.
Gabriel Teninbaum: I am not going to touch that one.
Jared Correia: You can talk about religion on the show, it’s fine.
Gabriel Teninbaum: So the idea here is that we want to help people who are doing this in practice think meaningfully about like, hey, if I am going to go to my Executive Committee and say we should lay out money, what things should we be laying money out on?
So this project, the 10, now 11 Principles of Legal Innovation is really one that I am interested to see where it goes. And what it’s going to require ultimately is people to test it, and what I want is someone to say, oh, I am going to try some or all these principles and capture some data related to it and then circle back and say, wow, Principle #7, that’s spot on, but Principle #8, let’s think about adjusting it this way. Then we will adjust it and try it again until we really hone it.
So a cool project that I am proud to be involved in.
Jared Correia: That’s awesome. And you have got your horde of minions here at the Law School, who are always willing to help you out.
Gabriel Teninbaum: I don’t know about that. So it’s funny, of all the cool things that I get to be involved in and participate in, I always sort of remark to myself that I still get to go home at the end of the day and wash the dishes. So my minions aren’t that great. But it’s a nice way to spend part of the day.
Jared Correia: You will get there. All right, last question for you, you write a number of popular blog posts and this is only your most recent one. So you just wrote something about the Principles of Innovation. Can you talk a little bit about that and then also let people know how they can find this post if they want to take a look at it?
Gabriel Teninbaum: Sure. So I have tried to become a more active blogger and be better about posting things across social media. So my personal site is HYPERLINK “http://www.lawtomatic.com” lawtomatic.com. It’s a good one, right, HYPERLINK “http://www.lawtomatic.com” lawtomatic.com?
Jared Correia: Yeah, I like it. You should really trademark that. Let me know, I know people.
Gabriel Teninbaum: If they work pro bono, so it’s an access to justice project for me. So HYPERLINK “http://www.lawtomatic.com” lawtomatic.com is the place to find me.
And of course, I am at Suffolk Law and I want to invite people to check out what we are doing here collectively. It’s not just me, it’s a team effort. We have just a great team. And folks can find us at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltech.suffolk.edu” legaltech.suffolk.edu, which is our micro site devoted to this kind of work. We do all kinds of projects with others too.
I know Jared, you have been involved with meet-up groups, I have been involved with meet-up groups, and one of the things that we try to do under this broader umbrella is recognize that this isn’t just for our current students, it’s for our community, and that means a lot of people. So I encourage people to check out what we are doing, and if you are not in Boston, check us out online, we try to stream stuff and put stuff out there so others can learn about it.
Jared Correia: So the blog posts are all at HYPERLINK “http://www.lawtomatic.com” lawtomatic.com.
Gabriel Teninbaum: You got it.
Jared Correia: All right, everybody, go check that out.
Sadly, that’s going to do it for this episode of The Legal Toolkit. I will be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Wait, does that mean I won’t be back on future shows?
Jared Correia: No, you are not coming back, I am sorry. No, you can come back maybe — we will let you breathe a little bit. Let’s schedule something for 29.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Like a fine wine.
Jared Correia: Exactly.
Gabriel Teninbaum: That’s a deal.
Jared Correia: If you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones, but not Gabe’s, however you can check out our entire show anytime you want at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com. So take a look at the Archive, we have got some good shows there.
So thanks again to Gabe Teninbaum, Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School for dropping by like in an actual studio today. We are really sitting across from each other.
So Gabe, can you tell people a little bit about some of the ways that they can find out more about you and about Suffolk if they want to.
Gabriel Teninbaum: Yeah, gladly. So my Twitter handle is @GTeninbaum. Sorry, that’s hard to spell. That’s what they gave us at Ellis Island.
My personal website is HYPERLINK “http://www.lawtomatic.com” lawtomatic.com. And of course the site for the Legal Tech Program at Suffolk is HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltech.suffolk.edu” legaltech.suffolk.edu, and I would love it if you would check any of those out.
Jared Correia: Absolutely. All right, thanks again to Gabe Teninbaum of Suffolk University Law School. And thanks to all of you out there for putting up with me.
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