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Law firm management
Law firms face unprecedented change. Increasing regulation; greater competition; and more demanding clients.
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One in three firms at risk, annual snapshot reveals

One in three firms at risk, annual snapshot reveals | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Squeeze on profit margins puts survival of mid-tier firms in doubt, says big four accountancy firm.

 

David Snell, head of the PwC law firms advisory group, said 2013 has been a turning point for the legal sector with the gap between best and worst performing firms widening.

 

‘Worryingly, with almost a third of law firms outside the top 10 recording disappointing net profit margins, our view is that unless these firms can radically restructure their business, their short- to medium-term survival must be in doubt.’

John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

If law firms think their pain is over, this report indicates it's barely started. With almost 200 firms due to close by December if they can't renew their PI cover, high-profile names going into pre-pack before being acquired by hungry aggregators; and clients continuing to demand value for money, improved communications especially over pricing; and alternative fee structures - Managing Partners, COFAs and COLPs - indeed all Partners should be worried.

 

...and yet. There's an almost endearig trust that becoming an ABS or the willing partners in a merger (for which read acquisition) is a silver bullet pathway to instant success. In many firms we see, Partners keep their heads down; and some are waiting for 'business as usual' to make a return'. All much more confident than this report suggests Partners should be.

 

There's more pain yet. The question for most law firms is whether they will act quickly enough to do more than just survive. If that...

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John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's curator insight, November 4, 2013 12:19 PM

...and yet. Mergers abound; Partners keep their heads down; and some are 'waiting for normalcy to return'. All much more confident than this report suggests Partners should be.

 

There's more pain yet. The question for most law firms is whether they will act quickly enough to do more than just survive. If that...

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No firm is too big to fail, says SRA director - Law Gazette

No firm is too big to fail, says SRA director - Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it
No firm is too big to fail, says SRA director Law Gazette Collins, speaking at an SRA conference in Birmingham today, said the authority had seen many firms with a lack of adequate succession planning and continuing in the assumption they would be...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

It's true - with Manches being the latest to just avoid failure through the increasingly common pre-pack process..

 

Two thoughts: firstly, how many more will happen; and secondly, what will be the consequent effect on what was once a bedrock of suppliers to law firms - trustworthiness and high creditworthiness?

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Coming Soon: "Legal Project Management in One Hour for Lawyers ...

Coming Soon: "Legal Project Management in One Hour for Lawyers ... | Law firm management | Scoop.it
They give their business to those who can manage legal work efficiently—and take it away from those who can't or won't. Legal Project Management in One Hour for Lawyers provides any attorney with practical skills and ...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

LPM - Project Management for professional services firms - is a growing trend, where legal firms and their leaders respond positively to client demands for better productivity and cost management.

 

Or, you could just call in experienced professional services firm managers to help you embed improved practice in your law firm...

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Practicing Law: 5 Benefits of Effective Listening

Practicing Law: 5 Benefits of Effective Listening | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Effective listening is crucial to establishing rapport with clients, witnesses, and others. It's a technique for lawyers to forge relationships.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Effective listening is a science and art form - useful for client work, rapport and business management.

 

Here's another view on why effective listening works - http://blog.oakviewconsulting.co.uk/when-did-you-last-get-a-good-listening-to

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Challinors creditors left with nothing

Challinors creditors left with nothing | Law firm management | Scoop.it
The demise of the Midlands partnership is expected to cost around 250 creditors a total of £7.1m.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

The penultimate chapter in a sorry tale of sector-wide financial difficulties, and individual business mis-management.

 

The final chapter may well revolve around the IVAs of the firm's current partners. Who'd be a lawyer - and more importantly, who'd be a lawyer in a poorly run business?

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How Legal Project Management Is Changing the Way Services Are Marketed » Bloomberg Law

How Legal Project Management Is Changing the Way Services Are Marketed » Bloomberg Law | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Legal Project Management No. 1 mission critical law firm initiative. http://t.co/xUeVODa6Br via @BloombergLP
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Managing law firms is becoming increasingly challenging, as clients demand the same attention to costs as other professional service providers.

 

Legal Project Management and Legal Process Management are two generic ways of achieving the ends: this Bllomberg article explains it succinctly.


However it is defined, though - managing internal costs through aggressive attention to the processes and through case management requires a potent mix of lawyers to get the legal input right; and process management experts who can identify improvements.

 

What are you doing?

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'Engage early with the SRA', firms warned - Law Gazette

'Engage early with the SRA', firms warned - Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it
'Engage early with the SRA', firms warned Law Gazette Firms in financial trouble have the best chance of survival if they engage early with the SRA, the regulator insisted this week as it revealed that more than one firm in 10 is showing signs of...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

A sensible precaution, one might think. Talking to the regulator if things aren't going well, and there are real financial concerns makes for good reading and a sense of having done the right thing.

 

Our question is whether the regulator has the resources and skill-set to provide meaningful input to firms in trouble. If they do, then great! Partners can be guided through. Our experience, unfortunately, is that the demands on regulatory staff mean inadequate time spent on individual issues, and so Partners are left feeling even more isolated.

 

With luck, resourcing won;t be an issue going forward. Goodness knows the SRA needs staff in its enforcement and intervention departments.

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SRA lifts lid on bad practice by failing firms - Law Gazette

SRA lifts lid on bad practice by failing firms - Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Law Gazette
SRA lifts lid on bad practice by failing firms
Law Gazette
Troubled law firms keep partners in the dark about financial problems and refuse to accept the reality of their situation, a new SRA report has found.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Except these aren't really insights - other than to truly poorly (and dare one say, fraudulently) managed firms. The report confirms that "holding client monies in the office account" is indicative of badly managed finances. That will have taken some observation.

 

Will anyof the COFAs at any of those firms causing this kind of problem face any kind of sanction? And yet, they are those most likely to trigger intervention, with its attendant cost and client risk.

 

What are the SRA playing at?

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Management - Do you run your business or does it run you?

Management - Do you run your business or does it run you? | Law firm management | Scoop.it
One of the risks of running a business, especially as a soloist, is that it will take over your life. Here are four key ways to mitigate the risks.

Via Anthony M Turner
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Good advice. I know many small and micro business owners who are prepared to sacrifice that which is outside their business, for the sake of what should be happening inside their business.

 

Following any (all?) of thse will help mitigate what might otherwise be costly...

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John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's curator insight, September 12, 2013 5:08 AM

Good advice. I know many small and micro business owners who are prepared to sacrifice that which is outside their business, for the sake of what should be happening inside their business.

 

Following any (all?) of thse will help mitigate what might otherwise be costly...

Greg Lustig's curator insight, September 12, 2013 7:50 AM

Many if not most small business leaders are too busy creating business to effectively manage their business.Others simply are not good managers which is not a prerequisite for owning a business.In either case ,this results in a reactive management style as opposed to a proactive approach based on planning.Even in large corporations where actual management is delegated to the various members of the executive team,leadership can fall prey to the same challenges as they become too focused on producing projected results for their shareholders rather than actually managing the business.In such cases,the  business seems to take on a life of  its own In which its leaders are forced to react rather than manage.This can be avoided with foresight and careful planing for all foreseeable risks.

Phyllis Smith's curator insight, October 25, 2013 6:13 AM

No matter what anyone thinks about being a solo entrepreneur - you're still accountable for the productivity of your business and you will still wear the many hats it takes to have a successful business.  Don't think its a 9 to 5 job - as a business owner - you're always "on".

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Seven Tips for Improving Law Firm Billing Efficiency | Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division

Seven Tips for Improving Law Firm Billing Efficiency | Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Discover how to truly get a grip on time management and evaluation.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Some (not all)) useful tips for managing billling. 

 

Of much, much, more use is the philosophy. Managing a business is different than practicing the law. How many lawyers and partners would change their focus if they were a one-partner firm? How much time would then be spent on non-billing activities...

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Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers? by David and Karen Skinner

Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers? by David and Karen Skinner | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers?
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Some #law firms are facing up to the challenge that is cost management, by tackling the operations and process side of business management.

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SRA Risk outlook 2013 – What COLPS/COFAS and conveyancers need to know

SRA Risk outlook 2013 – What COLPS/COFAS and conveyancers need to know | Law firm management | Scoop.it

In her speech at the launch event, Samantha Barrass (SRA Executive Director) said “Risks are often described like cockroaches-they hide well, multiply quickly and become everyone’s problem to stamp out.

 

The Risk Outlook is part of our repellent, exposing the risks and putting controls in place to ensure that the serious ones are managed out as early as possible. In order to achieve this, we need a clear view of the risks and to put in place controls, which includes Law Firm’s management of risk and the actions they take and are able to evidence with documentation, to manage the risks within their business.”

 

The way we manage risk at all levels within our own Law Firms must take into account the risks identified by our Regulator (SRA).

John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Colourful language - and yet makes the point. Law firm leaders need to identify and manage their risks in an organised and coherent manner. Specific risks are outlined in the article, and revolve around the same old issues of cash management, conflict management, client care, and due diligence.

 

Those risks are exacerbated by the current financial and economic difficulties experienced by law firms, wth governance, including decision-making, and succession planning the deeper issues affecting all others

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Five Strategic Planning Questions You Must Answer

Five Strategic Planning Questions You Must Answer | Law firm management | Scoop.it

As a consultant, I encounter strategic plans that remain too broad.  It’s sad but true. They’re designed to appease everyone and leave room for interpretation.  From my perspective, there are two reasons for this.  It stems from fear or inability to have the tough conversations (and conflict) to get to clarity. Or it stems from the framework we often use in strategic planning which can force broader answers. To avoid being too broad, start by asking yourself the strategic planning questions below. On the surface these questions will seem simple and easy to answer, but when you start to address them, I suspect the answers will be more challenging than originally thought. 


Via paulgreen, John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Read on - this could mean you!

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John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's curator insight, August 25, 2013 1:50 PM

This is very common, sadly - especially in the professional services markets where we operate a lot of the time.

 

Attempting to satisfy everyone in a partnership environment - where most firms begin, including those who have migrated to an ABS, LLP or Limited Company retaining their original partnership culture - ends up satisfying no-one. That means no progress, or as we have often seen the weakest or most risk averse effectively making the decision, and the business of being in business gets forgotten.

 

PSF governance is the biggest barrier to their progress. And internal conflict management - or more often avoidance - the biggest opportunity. Meaning internal political management is an essential characteristic of leaders...

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CIOs Say Mentoring Works, Classes Don’t

CIOs Say Mentoring Works, Classes Don’t | Law firm management | Scoop.it
A survey of 200 CIOs finds that most well-meaning efforts at IT leadership development aren’t very successful.

Via Jacqui Hogan
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Mentoring is a great way of empowering people in their own decision-making, leadership and management, through providing the resources and guidance necessary to help people grow their motivation and capability.

 

IT, particularly, suffers from this - perhaps primarily because IT professionals, like  others, think they need IT professionals to teach and guide them in gaining management skills. And so the pool is necessarily a small one. 

 

Keping doing the same thing, and expecting different results. Mad...

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Jacqui Hogan's curator insight, September 23, 2013 1:31 AM

The problem with training is that it just doesn't get applied back at the office. Busy leaders need the reinforcement that mentoring provides, and the opportunity to ask questions, test their thinking etc. with someone who is apart from their function; someone who isn't going to see this as 'weakness' or use the  information for political ends. The problem for IT execs is the lack of understanding amongst many mentors/coaches about the specifics of running an IT operation.

Ron McIntyre's curator insight, October 2, 2013 10:59 AM

This is a very difficult topic for most because it has various levels of success but the reality is; formal classes are usually voided by the lack of support on the daily job. Coaching and Mentoring is usually more successful, if implemented correctly.

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Revealed: SRA launches review of COFA role - Legal Futures

Revealed: SRA launches review of COFA role - Legal Futures | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Legal Futures Revealed: SRA launches review of COFA role Legal Futures The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has begun a review of the role of compliance officers for finance and administration (COFA), less than a year since they took up their...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Good to read thatthe SRA are reviewing this role - and more importantly, the cultural barriers to its effectiveness.

 

We've said since the introduction of OFR that it's not enough simply to appoint people to the position. Partners and staff need to respect its role and challenges; Partners need to step up to the plate whether they are COFAs or not. They;re all liable, after all...

 

And with an increasing number of firms struggling with financial matters, one wonders whether there'll be any review of how effective the COFAs were in anticipating the problem - and managing risks...

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SRA reaches 200 ABSs but one enters liquidation as another has license revoked - LEGAL FUTURES

SRA reaches 200 ABSs but one enters liquidation as another has license revoked - LEGAL FUTURES | Law firm management | Scoop.it

The number of alternative business structures (ABSs) licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) hit 200 yesterday, but the first ABS liquidation and first licence revocation have tempered any celebrations.

John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Here's our take on why lawyers shouldn't think that AMS is the Silver Bullet so many think it will be. What is it about the law firm model where Partners value their profit share - with little left in reserves - that might attract outside investors anyway?

 

It's not even that what lawyers call 'alternative' and the rest of commerce calls 'normal' business structures magically gives Managing Partners fantastic insights into business management. Nor, and perhaps more importantly, does it make Partners any more likely to work together...

 

http://www.waderobinson.co.uk/what-does-the-failure-of-an-abs-law-firm-tell-us-about-business-management/

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21 Secrets That Will Make You A Better Coach / Coaching Blog / The Coaching Academy

21 Secrets That Will Make You A Better Coach / Coaching Blog / The Coaching Academy | Law firm management | Scoop.it

You will not find these secrets in any textbook or coaching manual.

 

They're from experienced and highly successful coaches who were asked to describe the most important lessons they'd learnt coaching executives through the toughest situations imaginable.

John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

These are the kinds of things a good coach will be asking you, or your Partners, or your Senior and Junior Associates, or your Managers - if you want to invest in them and their learning.

 

Which means investing in your businesses. Removing - or, at least reducing - the barriers that get in the way of your business running efficiently and effectively. Such as Partner conflict; passive'aggressiveness; lack of motivation or energy; cliques; political interference. Personal behaviours; individual performance; performance management; executive decision-making. The list goes on...

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John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's curator insight, October 29, 2013 10:49 AM

Read on to find out more about what coaches do - and the key is action. To get there s a journey, and you need to want to change.

 

If you do, then things can happen...

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SRA suspends GPB practice - Credit Today

SRA suspends GPB practice - Credit Today | Law firm management | Scoop.it
SRA suspends GPB practice
Credit Today
GPB Solicitors has had its practice suspended by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) amid suspicion of dishonesty by an employee of the firm.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

In an unusual move, the actions of an employee cuase the closure of a legal practice - the SRA infer that a lack of COFA oversight causes Client Money problems.

 

So, does your COFA really know what to do?

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SRA to scrutinise at least 55 high-risk firms - Law Gazette

SRA to scrutinise at least 55 high-risk firms - Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Law Gazette SRA to scrutinise at least 55 high-risk firms Law Gazette Speaking at the SRA's regulatory risk committee this morning, Mike Haley, SRA director of supervision, said the regulator would target its resources on the 5% of high-risk firms...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Here's an interesting dilemma for the SRA. They are to provide 'intensive' advice to 55 high-risk firms out of the 1,200 originally identified as being at-risk. That's good isn't it.

 

It is if you're a Partner or employee or client (or, presumably, banker) to any of these firms; it isn't if you're a solicitor elsewhere paying for the SRA to give insolvency advice. It is if you're concerned about the reputation of the profession and its lasting impact on clients and their money; it isn't if the advice is given by those who are less experienced in financial matters.

 

And why was the 1,200 figure even mentioned. EIthe their net was cast too wide in the first place...or there are more than 55 'high-risk' firms, and the SRA just doesn't have the resource to cope.

 

Too cynical a view? Perhaps - where do you stand?

 

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Process Management vs. Project Management - +64 21 243 7382 ...

Process Management vs. Project Management - +64 21 243 7382 ... | Law firm management | Scoop.it
The management of individual projects will often involve specific deadlines whereas Process Management is more about managing constraints within a business.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Law firm leaders ought to read this. Whilst it may seem miles away from managing law firm operations, incorrectly staffing or managing these entirely different matters could cost time, resource - and cash!

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John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's curator insight, September 22, 2013 2:41 PM

The differences between project and process management may seem arcane - yet as this article says, they are fundamentally different. That means they need different management, and differently set outcomes and reporting lines and triggers.

 

Whilst it may seem pedantic to some, making the call between treating some intervention as a project or process-centric matter is important.

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SRA survey exposes 1200 firms in financial difficulty - Law Gazette

SRA survey exposes 1200 firms in financial difficulty - Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Law Gazette
SRA survey exposes 1200 firms in financial difficulty
Law Gazette
The SRA has identified at least 1,200 firms – more than 10% of the total number – with evidence of financial difficulty after a mass survey of at-risk sectors.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

On the one hand, hardly a surprise. Everyone knows how difficult the sector is; many of us have seen, worked with or advised legal firms who are having substantial business challenges. Without the knowledge, experience or support of those who have lead businesses in general, law firms in particular, and partnerships specifically, I fear many will find it difficult to survive. We've blogged about the 'perfect storm' financial crisis due to hit law firms in Q3.

 

All that said. Does the regulator have a great track-record in resolving firms in this situation. Does it have the resource - especially when some of the finite numbers they have are spending time on diversity issues? Finally, does it have the leadership with senior manager departures over the next few months...

 

We wish we could see some resolution...

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Case study: When is a breach 'material' or 'non-material'?

Case study: When is a breach 'material' or 'non-material'? | Law firm management | Scoop.it

A common dilemma facing COLPs and COFAs is whether a breach is material or not - and so whether it needs to be reported to the SRA. Or not.

 

The following scenarios are examples of reports they have recently received, and the Case Studies which result outline the factors that COLPs and COFAs should take into consideration in reaching a decision on whether the breach is material or non-material

John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

It can be difficult for COLPs and COFAs to know when to report material breaches - indeed, to know exactly what one is, especially at the margins.

 

These very helpful examples give a great insight into whatthey want - and do not need - to see from diligent COLPs and COFAs. Read on...

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SRA closes immigration firm following urgent injunction fiasco | Free ...

SRA closes immigration firm following urgent injunction fiasco | Free ... | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Consilium Chambers LLP, an East London law firm undertaking immigration work, has been shut down by the Solicitor Regulation Authority only weeks after fierce judicial criticism of the firm's handling of an urgent ...
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Fast action from the #SRA, when faced with judicial anger. Good outcome, too. Hopefully, genuine clients will have not have affected, though...

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Pricing revolution pays off for Pannone

Pricing revolution pays off for Pannone | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Profits grew 12% to £10.4m at Manchester firm Pannone, due to a change in its pricing structure.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

Brief article expounding the benefits of a rigorous pricing strategy, evidenced in higher profits at Pannone. MP Emma Holt confirms "greater emphasis on pricing and reshaping the business" played a crucial part.

 

So, a good business strategy, and legal process and project management had their place. The question is whether your law firm has either...and if you expect higher PEP figures in the future...

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Segmentation of the Legal Services Market – ‘The Banker’s View’ | Opinion | The Lawyer

Segmentation of the Legal Services Market – ‘The Banker’s View’ | Opinion | The Lawyer | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Price point and service model are the first areas on which the UK legal market is segmenting, but as Barclays’ Lee Everson says, there is more to come.
John Wade: Coach; consultant; mentor's insight:

A well-reasoned and informed argument for law firm leaders to take a new approach to their sector. 

 

Rather than evolving the model from a traditional law firm model using a client-biased perspective, this article argues that some contenders are starting with client needs, and building their model from there. This begins with price-point differentials, and includes fixed-fee pricing as one angle.

 

Worth a review before looking ahead to the next five years...if there is that long a future for some firms.

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