Networking

Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2

Posted on September 29, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Creating an effective online presence for lawyers, Part 2

Last week I spoke at an Incisive Media conference in New York City, “Social Media Risks and Rewards.”

It was an extremely interesting conference, attended primarily by general counsel of large corporations. The topics discussed varied, but focused on the use of social media to promote brand names and products, and the legal issues encountered when doing so.

As I listened to the speakers discuss large-scale social media campaigns, it occurred to me that using social media to promote a law practice is fundamentally different from promoting goods, online products or Web sites.

Lawyers seek to promote their professional services and increase the strength of their online presence whereas the underlying goal for most product promotions is to gain a large scale following of evangelists who will spread the word organically about your product. Lawyers, accordingly, need to approach social media with specific goals in mind.

The first step to creating an effective presence online is to set up profiles at online directories and social media platforms, as I explained in last week’s column.

The next step is to determine your goals, so that you may participate in social media in a targeted, efficient manner.

Blogs are one of the best ways to target your efforts, as long as you enjoy the process of writing. Blogs can showcase an attorney’s expertise and increase his or her rankings in search engine results.

Search engines seek out and rank higher Web pages that provide relevant content and are  linked frequently to by other Web sites, and updated regularly. Blogs satisfy all of those requirements.

Naturally the writer would use relevant key words when focusing on subjects relevant to his or her areas of practice, recent events, news items and posts from other blogs or cases. When the blog is linked to other bloggers’ content, those bloggers likely will return the favor.

A blog can be set up rather easily through the use of services such as Typepad.com or WordPress.com, but assistance from a company that sets up and designs legal blogs, such as G2webmedia.com or Lexblog.com, also can be sought. Blog posts
can be publicized on the attorney’s other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of blogging can still participate in social media by using online legal forums to expand a professional network and/or obtain information relevant to specific areas of practice. A large variety of practice area groups are active on both Facebook and LinkedIn.

Another option is to join online networking sites devoted to the legal field, such as Lawlink (lawlink.com), Martindale-Hubbell’s “Connected”(martindale.com/connected) and the American Bar Association’s legal network, “Legally Minded” (legallyminded.com).

An online presence can be expanded by distributing content and showcasing work product by uploading documents to JDSupra.com. Filings, decisions, articles, newsletters, blog entries, presentations and media coverage all can be uploaded.

After that, JDSupra makes it easy to distribute the content to any profiles you’ve already set up on LinkedIn, Facebook and, if applicable, Twitter.

Twitter can be a useful social media platform for some attorneys, depending on their goals. For those with a national client base, Twitter is ideal. If your potential client base is local and you live in a large metropolitan area, Twitter also may work for you.

Twitter is a great place to increase a professional network and obtain cutting-edge information relevant to a law practice or other areas of interest. Attorneys on Twitter can interact with other attorneys worldwide, CEOs of major companies, innovators and thought leaders in all professions, as well as editors and journalists for major publications.

The key to Twitter success —or success with any other social media platform —is to set aside a small block of time each day to participate. When you do interact, be genuine, honest, kind and generous. Don’t be afraid to share your personal interests, such as sports, food and wine or any other hobbies. Doing so makes you more personable and approachable.

It’s not difficult to create an effective online presence for a law practice. Although an attorney’s strategies may differ from those used to promote national brands or products, targeted social media interaction can be a very effective way to network and promote a practice.

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Five things lawyers should know about social media

Posted on June 30, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Five Things Lawyers Should Know About Social Media.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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“[S]ocial media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

— WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Online interaction is now commonplace. Networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are becoming mainstream. Opportunities for attorneys to connect and interact with potential clients are endless.

Before jumping on the “social media” bandwagon, however, there are a few important things about social media that lawyers must comprehend. The failure to do so will result in unsuccessful and disappointing forays into the online marketplace.

Social media is useless without goals

Come up with a plan, then interact online.

Is your goal to appear higher in search engine results, showcase a particular area of expertise, or interact with other attorneys in the same practice area? Would you like to target local or national clientele?

The answers to those questions necessarily affect your overall social media strategy.

Learn about social media. Figure out how it works and how it can work for you. Then, implement a social media strategy that promotes your goals. Be patient. Results don’t occur overnight.

Different social media sites serve different purposes

An entire firm does not need to actively participate in social media, but a few lawyers should be familiar with emerging Web 2.0 technologies and the ways in which those technologies can help and harm a firm’s bottom line.

At the very least, all members of a firm should have online profiles which include their areas of practice posted at LinkedIn, Justia and Avvo. It’s free to create profiles at those sites, and doing so allows you to piggyback on the SEO (search
engine optimization) of large, established sites.

Facebook is another site to consider. It allows lawyers to re-connect with people they’ve lost touch with, opening up an entire network of potential client and referrers.

If a lawyer enjoys writing and is passionate about a particular area of the law, blogging is the perfect way to showcase the lawyer’s expertise and writing skills,
while simultaneously increasing SEO (due to the unique characteristics of blogs) and humanizing the attorney.

Twitter is ideal for lawyers seeking to expand their national network, increase their exposure and connect with influential people in all major industries.

Lawyers don’t have to participate in every form of online interaction, but one way or another, participate and ensure the chosen forums promote the firm’s overall goals.

‘Social media’ is a misnomer

Some lawyers discount the potential of “social media” due to the incorrect assumption that it’s got nothing to do with business and is all about socializing. This is a serious mistake.

All online interactions, whether they are with other lawyers, old friends, or people you’ve just met and with whom you share a similar interest have the potential to benefit your career.

Social and professional networking necessarily overlap. A person’s interests are not limited to their profession unless, of course, the person is an unbelievably one dimensional and boring human being.

People are more than their careers. Lawyers are more than their law firms. Which brings me to my next point:

People want to hire other people, not businesses

While it is important to have a static website for your business, it is equally important for lawyers to cultivate a uniquely individual online presence as well.

The best way to do this it to take off your “lawyer hat”. Talk to people, not at them. Interact, don’t advertise. And, most importantly, share a little bit about yourself and your interests.

It is the overlap between the social and the professional that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People want to pick up the phone and call a specific person —not an intimidating, faceless entity —when they have a problem. Large businesses hire law firms; people hire other people.

Lawyers cannot afford to be left out of the loop

Attorneys who successfully leverage social media tools to communicate, collaborate and network have a distinct advantage over those who don’t.

Stand out from the crowd. Use online resources to your advantage. Take advantage of the opportunity to interact with potential clients and referral sources.

Be patient, persistent and positive. Use social media wisely and narrowly tailor your online activities toward the pursuit of specific goals.

Take my advice and you will see results. I guarantee it.

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Lawyers Networking Online

Posted on March 20, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

checkmark1The Daily Record published an interesting article yesterday that quoted a number of Rochester lawyers, including yours truly, who are using online networking to their advantage.  The article, “@Lawyers Networking Online” can be viewed in its entirety here.

Here’s the start of the article:

Kids do it. Jurors do it. Even members of the bar do it. Online social networking is more than a time-killer, say some Rochester attorneys, who also use it increasingly as a marketing tool.

Some larger law firms are resisting the trend, however. According to an informal survey reported in the March 2009 edition of Law Practice Magazine, 45 percent of law firms are now blocking access to some social Web sites. The survey, conducted in January 2009 by Doug Cornelius on Zoomerang.com, received 231 responses.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said their law firm blocks access to Facebook; 77 percent said they were blocked from MySpace. Another 55 percent are blocked from accessing YouTube, 26 percent from Twitter and 14 percent from LinkedIn.

Reasons cited by firms for blocking included loss of productivity, increased risk of viruses, confidentiality concerns and bandwidth consumption.

But those who use the sites argue the benefits of networking online far outweigh the risks. Rochester attorney Nicole Black, of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach and an expert on Web 2.0 technology, said firms that block networking sites simply don’t understand the power of social media.

“It’s just a way to expand your influence and showcase your expertise,” said Black, who personally maintains four separate blogs in addition to Web sites and pages on sites including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. “I think that the solo practitioners and the small firms are the ones that are going to be the first to use these [online sites] effectively.”
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Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?

Posted on February 10, 2009. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Are Social and Professional Networking Mutually Exclusive?

Last week I attended the LegalTech conference in New York City.

LegalTech New York is sponsored by Incisive Media and focuses on distributing information about technology and law practice management.

While at the event, I attended a number of seminars regarding Web 2.0 and its application and uses in legal practice-specifically in law firms. A prevailing theme that emerged from many panelists is that online social networking and online professional networking are two very different beasts.

In fact, one of the panelists carried two Blackberrys with him wherever he went —one for his professional network and the other for his social network. His expla- nation for his dual Blackberry methodology is that it helps him keep the two networks separate.

I wonder whether his attempts to keep the two separate is futile, at best, and pointless, at worst. And, even to the extent that online networking can be confined to the professional sphere, doing so is short sighted.

Networking can be loosely defined as “an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.”

The online arena is a perfect place to network and for that very reason online networking has become mainstream. Facebook now has more than million 36 million members, Linked In has 8 millions users and Twitter has more than 3 million and is increasing exponentially in popularity.

The number of online legal networks is increasing as well. Many new forums and networking sites devoted to the legal field have been launched in the last year,  including include Lawlink (lawlink.com), Martindale-Hubbell’s Connected (martin-
dale.com/connected) and the American Bar Association’s legal network, Legally Minded (legallyminded.com).

While it is encouraging to see established legal organizations attempt to participate in the Web 2.0 world, such forums are not, in my opinion, nearly as useful as the mainstream networking sites.

Certainly useful information can be gleaned from the sites; how- ever, busy lawyers have only  a limited amount of time to devote to networking, and their time would be better spent at mainstream online networking sites.

Furthermore, attempting to limit online participation to networks devoted to the legal field is counterintuitive, as is attempting to separate so-called social networking from professional networking.

Social and professional networking necessarily overlap. A person’s interests are not limited to their profession unless, of course, the person is an unbelievably one dimensional and boring human being. People are more than their careers.

Separating one’s professional and social online identities and interactions is a mistake. It is the overlap between the two that makes a lawyer more likeable, more approachable and more human.

People would rather hire a lawyer who is person to whom they can relate —someone with whom they can connect — and understand. If you limit your social networking to a circle of people you already know, you miss out on the chance to interact with potential clients on a more personal level.

Successful networking, therefore, doesn’t occur in such a delin- eated fashion and lawyers who believe that they can or should control and separate their online networks in such a way are missing the point. In the process, they’re also missing out on opportunities to connect with others, including potential referrers and clients.

The social and professional arenas are not mutually exclusive. They can and should overlap since it is the overlap that makes all the difference.

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The Future is Now

Posted on December 30, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “The Future is Now.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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The future is now

It’s time for the legal profession to pull its collective head out of the sand when it comes to technology, the Internet and Web 2.0.

Technology is here to stay and ignoring it no longer is an option.

Law firms and lawyers who turn a blind eye to technology do so to their own detriment, and their failure to acclimate to rapid technological change is going to catch up with them in 2009.

Like it or not, technology has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life. All kinds of information, including the very latest news, is available online. Phone numbers, addresses and contact information for of every type of business is readily accessible on the Internet. Shopping can be accomplished quickly and securely with the click of a button. Music can be downloaded from iTunes. Movies and television shows can be instantaneously streamed through Netflix or Hulu.com directly to a high-definition television via a laptop.

Likewise, technology has infiltrated the legal profession and leveled the playing field in ways never before seen. Small offices now can compete on even footing with large law firms.

Entire offices can be operated remotely using reasonably priced Web-based tools and applications. Documents can be stored securely on remote servers. Law offices can use Web-based practice management and time and billing applications such as Rocket Matter in lieu of the complicated and expensive software traditionally used by the legal profession.

Virtual law offices now are a reality and the value of online real estate has increased exponentially in recent years. With just a little effort, and minimal expense, solo practitioners can create a strong online presence that competes with that of larger firms.

A well-written law blog and polished profiles and content at JDSupra, Avvo, LinkedIn, and Facebook can do wonders for a lawyer’s search engine ranking. Online networking with lawyers and other professionals through Twitter and other online networks can lead to a steady stream of business.

By way of example, over the last six months I’ve received referrals from other lawyers across the country as a result of networking on Facebook and Twitter.

Potential clients from across New York State have contacted me through my blogs, Twitter and Avvo. I’ve also had former clients call me after locating me via Internet search engines.

I’ve been preaching about technological change for years now, as have many other cutting edge, influential lawyers from whom I’ve learned a great deal: Carolyn Elefant (www.myshingle.com), Susan Cartier Liebel (www.solopracticeuniversity.com), Grant Griffiths (www.homeofficewarrior.com) and Kevin O’Keefe (www.lexblog.com), to name just a few.

It seems the legal field is finally starting to sit up and take notice. Facebook has become mainstream. Law blogs are all the rage.

When I began blogging in 2005, no one knew what a blog was. Now law firms, big and small, are launching blogs at an unprecedented rate.

The legal profession is just beginning to acknowledge the power of technology and the Internet. That’s a start, but reluctant acceptance simply is not good enough.

The legal profession must learn to embrace, not fear, the changing landscape. There is still a demand for legal services, and there always will be – technology has not changed that fact. Technology has altered the playing field and the rules of the game by changing the ways in which legal services are marketed, sold and purchased.

The change is not temporary, but permanent. Lawyers who accept and embrace that fact and position themselves for the future – rather than denying its reality – will prosper and profit in 2009 and beyond.

Will you be one of those lawyers?

-Nicole Black

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Fellow lawyers, tweet this!

Posted on December 5, 2008. Filed under: Networking, New Media 101, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

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Gen Y, the Recession and Obama-Changing the Legal Landscape

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 |

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Twitter 101 for Lawyers

Posted on November 4, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, The times they are a'changin', Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

Drlogo11

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Twitter 101 for Lawyers.”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

On Twitter I am @nikiblack.  You can follow me here.

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Twitter 101 for Lawyers

While I’ve often repeated my recommendation that lawyers ought to take advantage of the networking and micro-blogging service, Twitter, I’ve yet to explain how to do so.

Not surprisingly, it is the “how” that matters because, at first glance, Twitter seems like anything but the wonderful tool that it is.

First things first —what is Twitter? Twitter is a free, Web-based communications platform that allows users to share information with others who have similar personal and professional interests. Users communicate using text-based posts (“tweets”) of up to 140 characters in length.

Twitter currently has more than 3.2 million accounts registered, and its user base is expanding quickly. Companies and individuals use Twitter in a variety of unique ways, which are constantly evolving.

For example, large businesses, including Jet Blue and Wegmans, use Twitter to provide information and, occasionally, personalized customer service. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign uses Twitter to connect with and update supporters. News outlets such as the BBC use Twitter to rapidly disseminate breaking news.

In some cases, news breaks on Twitter before the major news outlets report on it, which happened during the recent earthquake in California. California-based Twitter users were the first to “tweet” about the earthquake as they experienced it.

Of course, you’re probably wondering whether Twitter has any value to you as a lawyer. It does. With Twitter you can network with other lawyers across the country and the world; promote your practice and its Web site or other online presence; receive news updates relevant to your area of practice and connect with potential clients or referral sources.

Twitter is an invaluable resource, as long as you know how to use it. The first step is to create an account at Twitter.com. Make sure to choose a user name that is easily recognizable and promotes your practice.

The next step is to locate people and organizations you’d like to follow, including people you already know, those who practice in the same area of law, potential clients and users with similar personal interests. There are a number of ways to do this.

Locate people you already know by running your Web-hosted e-mail address through Twitter’s system. (You’ll be prompted to do so when you first sign up.) Once you’ve connected with people you know, check their follower lists and “follow” anyone who interests you.

Online directories, such as Twellow, conveniently categorize Twitter users for you. Review the directory to locate people with whom you’d like to connect.

Recently, two really useful lists were published by JD Supra (an online platform that allows lawyers, law firms and legal professionals to publish and distribute work online to a wide audience) at their blog, JD Scoop.

Both lists were created by Adrian Lurssen. The first is a list of “145 Lawyers (and Legal Professionals) to Follow on Twitter.”

The second is a list of “Legal News Feeds on Twitter.”

You also can search Twitter using Summize to locate people who are discussing topics that interest you. For example, if you’re interested in wine, you can run a search for “wine” and other wine-related terms to locate other oenophiles.

After you’ve located people and companies, consider using a Web application such as Tweetdeck or Twhirl, which make the interface far more user-friendly by allowing you to organize and keep track of your conversations on Twitter.

Once you’ve set up an account and connected with a few people, start Tweeting about your day-to-day law practice, your firm’s blog or other online presence, news of interest to you and your followers and any other topics that interests you.

Engage in conversations with other users by responding to their Tweets. Simply type “@username,” then add your comment.

It only takes a short amount of time to set up an account and familiarize yourself with Twitter. Once you do, you may wonder how you ever practiced law without this amazing resource.

-Nicole Black

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Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers

Posted on July 8, 2008. Filed under: Networking, New Resources, Social Media, Web 2.0 |

This week’s Daily Record column is entitled “Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers”

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

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Social Media Latest Networking Tool for Lawyers

“Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. … Social media or social networking (one example of social media) has a number of characteristics that make it fundamentally different from traditional media such as newspapers, television, books and radio. Primarily, social media depends on interactions between people as the discussion and integration of words builds shared-meaning, using technology as a conduit.”

— Wikipedia entry for social media

All lawyers understand the importance of networking.

Interacting with colleagues, current clients and potential clients is a surefire way to increase business opportunities and referrals.

In the past, networking traditionally occurred in many forums, including events sponsored by bar associations or other professional organizations, on the golf course or while participating in community activities. Not all lawyers relished the concept of networking, but the general school of thought was that it was a necessary part of doing business, and staying cooped up in an office day in and day out was counterproductive to rainmaking.

With the recent explosion of social media and online networking opportunities, however, traditional notions regarding network- ing may no longer be applicable. The time-tested, traditional methods certainly still apply, but emerging social media technologies are expanding networking opportunities exponentially.

Social media appears in many forms, including e-mail, blogs, online forums and message boards. The ability to network with other lawyers and potential clients from the comfort of your office, on your own terms and your own schedule, is now a reality.

The only drawback to this new form of interaction is that it is not time tested, and its effectiveness has yet to be proven. Nevertheless, opportunities to network online are increasingly available and lawyers who ignore the possibilities do so to their own detriment.

Examples of social media applications that facilitate professional and social networking include Facebook, LinkedIn and, most recently, micro-blogs such as Twitter.

Facebook, likely the most well known of the three networking sites, originally launched as a social net- work for college students, but was opened to the public in September 2006. While it remains predominantly a social network- ing site, it can provide valuable professional networking opportunities for lawyers.

Over the last year, lawyers have flocked to Facebook in droves and created networking groups centered around various areas of practice. It is a cost-free and useful way to meet other lawyers from across the country and to re-connect with law school and undergraduate colleagues.

LinkedIn is a free online professional networking site that consists of a membership “of more than 20 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries.” Its primary goal is to increase business opportunities for members by providing the ability to connect with potential clients, employees, employers and other members of their profession. LinkedIn has been around for a while now and shows promise. Only time will tell if it will live up to its potential as a professional networking resource.

One of the newer, emerging technologies seeing a huge amount of growth is Twitter. In my opinion, it is one of the most promising professional networking resources available.

Twitter is a free networking and micro-blogging service in which conversations occur in, at the most, 140-character snippets. Once a member, you can locate others with similar interests or backgrounds through a directory such as Twellow (www.twellow.com), then follow and reply to Twitter posts.

There has been a great influx of practicing and non-practicing lawyers onto Twitter in recent months, allowing for exchanges on topics such as recent court decisions and law practice management. In addition to facilitating law-related discussions, Twitter allows member to get a good feel for the people with whom they converse, since posts also include people’s thoughts regarding their day-to-day activities and current events.

Emerging social media technologies are leveling the playing field and changing the way lawyers interact and network. Time- tested and proven networking methods should not be abandoned, but astute attorneys will recognize the potential for increasing one’s professional network by taking advantage of free, online networking opportunities

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Why in the world should lawyers be concerned with social media?

Posted on June 1, 2008. Filed under: Networking, Social Media, Web 2.0 | Tags: |

Because, it’s the wave of the future, that’s why.  Those who “get it” will have a distinct advantage over those who refuse to acknowledge its existence.  

Of course, my assertion begs the question:  what is social media?  Via LawyerKM :: Knowledge Management & Technology for Lawyers and Law Firms and Real Lawyers Have Blogs, I learned of this new video from Common Craft that simplifies social media and describes it in a nutshell:


  

Social media and Web 2.0 are the future of collaboration and communication in every field, including the legal profession.  The combined creativity and ingenuity of the those with similar interests results in innovative, ground-breaking changes, while a resistant, stubborn mindset leads to nothing but stagnation.

The way that things are getting done is changing, and at a rapid pace.  Keep up with it, and you’ll benefit enormously.  Ignore it and you’ll pay the price.

And, as an aside, an interesting analysis of the future of social media as an revenue-generating platform can be found here at ReadWriteWeb.

Nicole Black

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