September 28, 2016

Personal Statement Advice

Personal Statement Advice | brazenandbrunette.com

This one's for all you 0L's out there getting ready to submit your law school applications. I was already planning on doing a post on the personal statement because mine was a disaster and I always wondered if writing a stronger one would've kept me off the waitlist, so I wasn't surprised at all when the messages came in from readers asking for help on it. Because it took me a second time to get a PS that I felt comfortable with, I sent out a mass text to some of my law school friends to get their advice too. So I guess in a way this is kinda a guest post but not really? Anyways, here's what they had to say about their own PS.


Crystal 

You should tell them something unique about yourself that they wouldn’t know by looking at your resume so that they “can get to you know you better”. Also I feel like sometimes people think they need to have a crazy story to tell to make it good and thats not the case. You can find a good meaning in something small too.

Janet

If you want a great personal statement it helps to have an interesting life. Make sure to join organizations, travel, work, volunteer, and try new things. If you’re putting yourself out in the world you will gain experiences and stories that will turn into topic options for your personal statement. People don’t want to read about how you’ve always wanted to become a lawyer because you like to argue and watch law series on Netflix.

Jordan 

I would probably tell myself that I wish I had known from the start that it was going to take numerous revisions to get to what I actually sent in and that it is impossible to put your whole self in two pages. I got too attached to some of my first drafts because I was so caught up in the story I was telling that I forgot about the purpose of the personal statement: to connect the story to why you want to go to law school. While the story is important, it can only be half of the personal statement and I got too attached to those first drafts that were story heavy and therefore I became worried that the admissions committee was not going to know the whole me. The purpose of the personal statement isn't to put your whole self in two pages, it's to convince the admissions committee to accept you based on the singular experience that helped lead you to the decision to want to practice law.

JulieAnne 

I tailored my letters to each school. I remember researching the schools online to find what unique programs/clinics they had. Then I wrote about how I was excited to get involved in that program (and went into a little more detail).

Also, if I visited the school before applying, I made sure to write about the positive impact that visit had on my desire to attend that school. For example, I wrote about the students who led the campus tour and how helpful they were and how they told me about their involvement in XYZ  organization and how I'm now interested in joining that organization and getting involved on campus and in the community.

General Tips:
- Basically, make it seem like that school is at the top of your list.
- Write about how you plan to get involved with campus organizations, advocacy programs, clinics, etc. -- especially if it's unique to that school. (This requires a bit of research for each school.) Also, write about HOW your experience in these programs would help you after school (don't just say "it will be helpful in my career as a XYZ attorney.")


Online Advice

I also did a quick search through my Pinterest and found these helpful articles on law school personal statements


Personal Statement Advice | brazenandbrunette.com









Final Thoughts

Hopefully by now you'll feel a little better about writing your PS! I stressed so much when writing mine, so I really do feel y'alls pain. If you have any advice you'd like to share about the personal statement, please comment below or email me so that other readers can benefit from your insight :) Good luck out there to everyone applying!!

September 21, 2016

Tackling Practice Essays

tackling law school practice essays | brazenandbrunette.com

Well we're at that weird point in the year where it feels like school just started and yet people are already talking about tests. Even though my professors aren't giving any midterms this semester, we've already started getting ready for finals by going over practice essays. Practice essays in law school are probably as much hand holding as you'll get from a professor. What's great is that they'll usually just give you a question from a previous test and then you know what to expect when your professor goes over them. 

If your professor never gives any practice essays, you might stop by his office hours about a month before class ends and ask if he has old test questions that you could practice with or has a recommended source where you could find similar practice questions. These are super helpful for during your 1L year because you'll feel a lot more prepared if you know what to expect. So, here's what I do with mine!


Timing the essay

Your professor might tell you a recommended time that you spend on your practice essay, but at least for your first effort I wouldn't worry about timing yourself. It's better to get really good at answering these and then picking up your speed rather than trying to do both at once. Another thing I wouldn't worry about on your first attempt is that you have to use your notes to answer it. By this point in the semester you should be making outlines to help your rate of learning exceed your rate of forgetting, but it's not quite time to be pushing yourself to have all of the rules and definitions memorized. 


Spotting the issues

A practice essay will almost certainly be an issue spotter problem because those are by far the most common questions on a law school test. What this means is that you'll probably get a couple of paragraphs over a series of unfortunate events. The hard part actually isn't spotting the issue, the professors practically throw those at you. The hard part is properly analyzing each issue. As I read through the fact pattern the first time, I'll underline each issue that I come across and in the margins make a little note about what issue I think it's talking about. 


Organizing the issues

The essay will most likely not just be one issue, but probably 3-5 related issues. If you don't stay on top of organizing your issues, on test day they're going to get all jumbled together because you get sloppier when you're on a time crunch. Once you have separated your issues out, then it's time to analyze them. There's different ways to decide what order you go in: the order they were presented, grouped by each person and their issue(s), grouped by similar issues, or in the order of your attack outline. It doesn't matter what order you go in, just as long as you pick some form of organization. 


Discussing the issues and rules

This is actually where most 1Ls have the hardest time when they first start out because they overlook obvious points. The easiest way to do this is through, again, organization. Know what's a great way to organize your analysis in a what that your professor will recognize and maybe even prefer? IRAC, my friends!! 

This is super helpful because, for example, it's easy to get in a rush and forget that you need to state the issue because you assume that because the professor wrote the essay that you don't need to restate the obvious, but you do because that's where you can get extra points.

Your professor probably won't be expecting big elaborate introductory and transitional sentences like if this was an essay that you had weeks to do. You literally can just say "The issue here is whether Joe voided his employment contract" and that will be good enough. Then you can go on to the rule by simply saying, "The rule for a voided contract is..." 

Analyzing the issues and rules

This leads you right in to the analysis where you can connect the rule to your fact pattern like,  "A contract is formed when there is offer, acceptance, and consideration. Offer definition/rules... X was the offer in Joe's contract because..." and repeat for the rest of the elements. Then you can mention any exceptions, majority/minority rules, or anything else. 

This is where the attack outline can really help you rake in a lot of easy points. If you get in a rush, you might miss the points that are available because you didn't talk about what's required for a contract before diving in to the issue of was the contract voided. But in my attack outline, I had the elements of a contract so when I used that as a checklist to see what I could put in my analysis, I saw that it was relevant and could throw that in. 

I don't spend too much time trying to include my attack outline into my analysis, but instead use it as a guide/reminder. If I finish the test and have extra time, I'll go back through to see if there are any legal concepts that could be relevant to an issue and I will try to work in a quick discussion about that. 

This might seem like a lot of information to discuss in not a lot of time. That's why it's better to be concise and to-the-point rather than using a bunch of big words trying to sound smart. The more relevant information you can talk about, the more points you'll get. Simple as that. What that means for the curve is that you and the girl next to you could have gotten the same right answers, but if you discussed more you'll most likely get a better grade than her.

Conclusion

The conclusion is usually the least important part of the essay. You still have to have one, but usually the problem is structured so that it goes either way. If it truly could go either way, then you could say something like "If... then Joe did void his employment contract; but, if... then Joe did not void his employment contract." If it's not, then you get to pretend that you're a judge and based on the facts and law that you have, make a decision on which way you sway and explain why. Again this can be as short and sweet as, "Because X Y Z, Joe did void his employment contract." And then you can repeat the IRAC process for the next issue and move on down the line.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, your professors will give you several different practice essays throughout the semester. If you can get this writing process down, it'll help you so much on test day. Although IRAC probably won't be required of you, I do recommend doing it on your essay as a surefire way that you stay organized and talking about the relevant facts. 

As a summary to hopefully make it all clear, this is how I'd organize a practice essay.

I. Issue 1
   A. Issue
   B. Rule
   C. Analysis
      i. attack outline chapters that are relevant to this issue
   D. Conclusion 
II. Issue 2

Also, check out my Finals Posts Round Up post for more tips to help with your finals!

September 16, 2016

It's Time for a Lazy Day

3 ways to have a lazy day when you can't study anymore | brazenandbrunette.com

Let me tell you about my day yesterday. After drafting a security agreement AND drafting my own will AND doing research for my memo AND editing my résumé on top of all of the readings that I do daily, I finally just said fuck it. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and knew that I had to take a break or I would have a breakdown. The weather had impeccable timing because not long after that it got cold and started raining, which turned in to the perfect excuse to have a much needed lazy day. 

I firmly believe in taking a day off to just relax at least once every couple of weeks. If I had the money to, I would spend this day getting a massage or going shopping. But I'm broke so this is my cheap alternative. I don't always do the same thing every time, but here's some of my lazy evenings.


Movie Time

First things first, ya gotta be cozy to be planted in front of your TV for a couple of hours. I bought this onesie to wear for a PJ day for my sorority as a joke, but jokes on me because I actually wear this more often than I probably should. It's not so much that it's comfortable and warm (which it is), it's that almost every time I have a lazy day I end up wearing this so once I put it on my brain goes in to relaxation mode. 

Then I grab some ice cream because calories don't count on lazy days. It's a scientifically proven fact. And ice cream is practically required when watching a rom com. I also grab some extra buttery popcorn because you can't have a Netflix binge without popcorn. If you're worried about this being too much food, Ben and Jerry's makes single serving ice cream that are the perfect size.

Last week iTunes celebrated their 10th anniversary with a 10 movies for $10 promotion. I got the Paramount Drama bundle (it was yellow) and it came with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Selma, The Wolf of Wall Street, Flight, No Strings Attached, Fighter, Up in the Air, Tropic Thunder, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Zodiac for $10. Obviously I was all set for a movie night haha. 

Bath Time

I'm a sucker for a good bubble bath. But it's because they are SO relaxing! If you haven't had a relaxing bath, the key is to take a tip from the babies. What I mean by that is Johnson & Johnson Baby lavender bubble bath. It's made to help babies fall asleep easier so it's very comforting. Enjoy yourself and pour in the entire bottle of bubbles so that they're everywhere! I also use an overflow cover so that I can fill my bathtub up as much as possible, so that I can really soak and relax. Long-burning candles and a cheap bottle of wine are also necessities.

Usually the problem with baths is that sitting in a tub by yourself is pretty boring. Sometimes I'll listen to a chill Spotify playlist, but even that can get monotonous. The trick here is to bring your iPad or laptop in your bathroom and set it up on your toilet or somewhere near your tub, and then you can watch shows. If you have an iPad, almost every channel has apps that you can download and watch their lineup of shows or even live TV. 

FaceTime

Although I've moved back to where I went to undergrad, a good number of my friends have graduated and moved on and I'm still a day's drive from my family. When I get busy reading case after case, it's easy for me to neglect those long-distance relationships. Either I'll forget to respond to their texts or any phone call is cut short because I really need to be studying. But if I've already decided that the rest of my day isn't going to be productive, then I can take the time to FaceTime someone and catch up. Just a one-hour conversation once and a while can really help when you start to get homesick or miss a friend. 

If face-to-face conversations aren't your thing, then you should at least call them! I know that long phone calls can be boring because you're just sitting there on the phone, but if you get some colored pencils and an adult coloring book then you can keep yourself occupied while you're chatting. Even better, as a gift idea I got one of my friends the exact same coloring book I have and now we can pick a page and doodle on it together while we talk. It makes the distance feel closer when you're doing the exact same thing, and can give you something to talk about as you both try to figure out what that one weird shape is supposed to be. 


Final Thoughts

This post probably sounds cheesy because like duh it's not hard to do nothing. That's not the point. The point is that law school is probably already stressing you out. I wish I could say that it gets better but really it just tends to pick up and get more busy. If you don't take this time and allow (or force) yourself to take a break, you're going to get burned out really quickly.

I remember at my first orientation, the Assistant Dean was talking about how as a 1L he decided to take Sundays off, but then fell behind and never took another day off like that again. Sorry but I think that is terrible advice. I was so scared of falling behind my first semester that I drove myself in to stress attacks. If you think you won't have time for a full lazy day, at least try to have a productive first 1/2 of the day and then let yourself breathe for the rest of the day. Trust me when I say that you'll study better when you're not on the verge of a mental breakdown. Plus after weeks of doing nothing but reading, you deserve this! So go have a "fuck it" day :) 

September 14, 2016

How to Turn Your Class Notes into an Outline

How to make a law school outline. What goes in a law school outline. 1L outlines. 1L outlining. A guide to law school outlines. How to write a law school outline. Why you should outline in law school. Law school how to | brazenandbrunette.com

Well now that I'm through about a chapter and a half in all of my major classes, I'm starting to work on my outline. The reason why I wait so long to start is because my professor last year actually suggested that it's easier to start on an outline once you're a couple weeks in and have enough puzzle pieces that you can get an idea about what the finished product should look like. 

I know that how to make an outline is a really stressful thing when you first start to make one, because you've never done this before so you don't know if you're being over or under-conclusive. This is just a general guide of what I do, but I highly suggest that you schedule an appointment with your professor during office hours here in a few weeks and have your professor look over what you have in your outline so far. Since they're the ones who actually make the test, they'll be the best person to tell you what you can cut down on and what you need to beef up. 

If for some reason your professor isn't on board with helping you out a little, my suggestions would be to 1. ask your TA if that class has one, 2. ask an upperclassmen who took that class with the same professor before (make sure you ask what grade they got! don't want to borrow notes from a C- student), or 3. check out this website. I found these outlines last year and what's great is that they are book specific so you can make sure the information is right. I personally feel like they have WAY too much information so I don't actually study from these, but at the end of the year I do use them to see if there's anything they have on their outline that I learned in class but forgot to include in mine and then will gap fill.

The best way I can think to show how to make an outline is to just go through an example of what I did for one Contracts case. For this example, the rule of the case (mailbox rule) was actually an exception to a rule (an acceptance must be communicated), so hopefully you can see the progression. Also, sometimes you’ll read more than one case that explains the same rule but in different ways so that you can fully understand it.

Step One

Step one is to read the book which I'm guessing you've already completed so yay! Hopefully when you're highlighting/underlining in your books, you're doing it sparingly to only get the relevant information. If you find yourself highlighting like five straight lines, I suggest that you be a little more picky and only highlight what is absolutely critical in each sentence. 


Related: How to Highlight Efficiently



step one to making a law school outline | brazenandbrunette.com

Step Two

Step two (optional) is to turn what you read in your book into an IRAC. As I've mentioned before, I've stopped making briefs for each case and instead rely on my highlights as a book brief. I've also stopped the blue/black coloring in my notes because it ended up just confusing me. 

Related: How to read a casebook to make a case brief (IRAC)

step two to making a law school outline | brazenandbrunette.com

Step Three

Step three is looking at the cases that you've been reading and seeing them as part of the big picture that is your class. What I include in my notes is 1. the rules of the cases, 2. important information in the book between the cases that I highlighted as I read, 3. info from slides the professor puts up, 4. notes I take as my professor talks. 

An easy way to organize your notes before you get started is to write down the headings and subheadings of your book, and then go back through and fill it in with the information as you get it from 1-4 (^^). It's just an easy way to keep all the relevant rules and slides and professor tidbits clumped together.

step three to making a law school outline | brazenandbrunette.com

Step Four

Step four is the actual outline. If you organize your notes like I do, it's actually really simple to create your outline because you follow the same method:
  • Roman numerals are the chapters 
  • capital letters are either the subheadings in your book and/or important information that your professor has stretched
  • lowercase Roman numerals are the main rules for each subheadings
  • lowercase letters and regular numbers further explain or give examples 

This is called a skeletal outline, which is also how I came up with my attack outline that I memorize to help me not miss any points on a final.

As for the chapters you can either go in the order that the book has them, or if your professor skipped around then you can go in that order. Just pick whichever order makes the most sense to you. Once you've finished your outline completely (when class is over), go back through to rearrange and edit it to make sure that it makes the most sense to you.

step four to making a law school outline | brazenandbrunette.com

Final Thoughts

Here's some things to keep in mind as your do your outlines. 

How often to update your outline: I recommend doing it as you finish each chapter once you can get the big picture from your book, class, and notes at first. Once you get the hang of it, you might be able to work on it every other week like I'm trying to do. 

What to put in an outline: Doctrines or legal theories, definitions, rules, elements/factors to consider, exceptions to the rules, variations on rules (majority/minority), steps or analysis, policy arguments, examples when needed, major cases, flowchart/spider maps/tree diagrams are all great information to help make sure you understand the legal concepts. 

What not to put in an outline: Full case briefs, trivia from cases, and information not relevant to the course are all just a waste of your time. 

How long to make your outline: Keep the skirt rule in mind, "long enough to cover what needs to be covered, but short enough to keep your attention." Remember that at the end of the year you will be trying to memorize this, so putting unnecessary information in it will just hurt your brain. Mine were generally between 10-15 pages. Again, if you're unsure make sure you make an appointment with your professor around midterm to review your outline. 

How to know your outline has enough: Simply put, check around. Email your professor (I suggest either the half-semester mark or about a month before your final) and have him/her go over it just to see if you've been too broad or too specific. If you're in a study group, see if y'all can compare and share outlines. Ask your classmates or upperclassmen if they know of any old outlines that you can compare your to. Compare your outline to one you can find online. I found these free outlines that are sorted by subject & book and are what I've used as a reference in making my outlines. Quimbee has these paid outlines. And the company who I did my podcast with also has paid outlines

What I did when using other outlines to make mine was after I was done I would have mine and their side by side and I would see if there was an area where they explained something better than I did or if I completely forgot a concept then I would add just that little bit of extra information to mine. Remember that professional/online outlines will have way more information than you'll need so don't feel like you have to make yours as expansive as theirs! Most of my outlines ended up being between 10-20 pages and that was because sometimes a whole line would just have a few words on it. Don't think that you have to make yours full of complete sentences! Just make sure it has only the information that you need.

Also, check out my Finals Posts Round Up post for more tips to help with your finals!
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September 11, 2016

The Declaration of Intent to Study Law

What you'll need to file the declaration of intent to study law as a 1L | brazenandbrunette.com

Last week I was sitting in class with a fellow transfer student when he started asking me about the Dec. His previous law school wasn't in Texas and I found out that apparently we're the only ones that have to do it. If you're not studying in Texas, congratulations you just saved yourself a bunch of paperwork. If you're a 1L in Texas, the Texas Board of Law Examiners probably came to you during your orientation to talk about the Dec. Hopefully if this applies to you, you didn't forget about the Dec because it's due this week!


What is the Dec

The Dec is you telling the TxBLE that you'll be taking the Bar soon. You start this process now so that they have two years to do a serious background check on you and then have time to fix any problems before you take the Bar. For example, if you didn't list an arrest when you were applying to law school and thought it was okay because the law school didn't find out, the BLE will find out and you'll have time to explain that arrest before you take the Bar. Texas BLE is really big on honesty to make sure they're not licensing any sleezy lawyers. 

What goes in the Dec

Where you've lived - Start thinking about all the times that you've moved in your life. This includes before and during college. You'll need to already have a list of every city and state that you've lived in since you turned 18.

Where you've worked - Again since you were 18, you'll need to list all of your past employers, not just the last few like what you do on your resumé or a job application. You'll need to remember the names of your bosses and a contact number for them.

When you've got in trouble in school - This is everything from getting caught plagiarizing to flunking out of school and everywhere in between. The BLE is serious about looking in to all of your permanent records so make sure that you don't try to hide anything. 

When you've got in trouble with the law - Anything worse than a traffic ticket needs to be listed. Even if your charge was settled and there's a non-disclosure with it, you still need to name it. The only thing you don't have to list is anything that's been expunged (but you should get a copy of the expunction to make sure). You'll need to get copies of police reports and tickets for all of these too, so get on that if you haven't because it could take a while for the police department to mail you the copies. Hopefully you were honest on your law school applications, but if you weren't you'll need to let the BLE know that there's a discrepancy. 

Who you know - Lastly, you'll need like 6 references. These aren't like your law school references of old professors that will be like she's a great learner! These are your personal references who will be like oh yeah she definitely won't steal money from her clients! Make sure you find the best number for your contacts because if the BLE can't get a hold of someone, they'll make you have that person get ahold of them. 

When you've been sued - This probably won't apply to most of us because we haven't had enough life experience to be in a lawsuit. This includes bankruptcy, landlord/tenant disputes,  or personal injury claims. If you were part of a lawsuit and there was a non-disclosure, you probably will have to list it but if you're not sure call the BLE with the specific details.

When you messed up your taxes - If you didn't file your taxes one time, the BLE will find that because seriously they check all of your records. Or if you filed your tax return and it came back that you owe more in taxes, you'll need to let the BLE know if you still owe on that. Because ya know, the BLE doesn't like those hidden Swiss banks accounts.

What you'll need to do for the Dec

Just a fair warning, the Dec takes like hours to fill out all of that paperwork. If you thought your law school application took you forever to fill out, just wait for the fun that is the Dec. If you haven't started yet, really get on that because I promise you can't finish this in like 30 minutes. You'll also have to sign up to get fingerprinted (and pay for the fingerprinting). Your school probably will have a time where someone comes to your school and does all of the 1L's fingerprints at one time. 

Luckily for y'all, from now on you can fill out the paperwork online. I definitely had to print out all 20 pages and then go down and pay like $10 to get the most secure mailing option. That was on top of the ridiculous $190 fee that make you pay for filing the Dec. One last thing, make sure you send them a certified copy of your birth certificate because I sent in mine from 1992 and I just found out that it is now permanent property of the BLE :/

September 7, 2016

2 weeks as a 2L

2 weeks as a 2L | brazenandbrunette.com

Sorry I've been terrible at keeping up with my Sunday, Wednesday, Friday blogging schedule! It's only been 2 weeks and already the days are flying by. I swear for as fast as college flew by, law school is soaring by even faster. When I was walking to my last class, it dawned on me that after this semester I will be HALFWAY through law school already! That's just too soon! I'm definitely not ready to face the Bar and job market yet :/ Anyhoo, thought I'd write a little post about the transition from a 1L to a 2L.

I think the best description of law school is that your first semester 1L year is like freshman year all over again, your second 1L semester is like a sophomore year, and by the time you get to a 2L you're already a junior. I say this because that first semester is really the most stressful adjustment that I've experienced so far. New school, new professors, new learning techniques, new classroom structure, new grading style. It's all just so new and can be really overwhelming at first. But when you come back from Christmas break, it's no longer new. You're still getting adjusted, but by then you're in the swing of things. As a 2L I really do feel like so much older and wiser compared to how I was as a 1L. 


The Good

One great thing about being an upperclassman is that by now I've got this whole law school thing pretty much down. Last week it only took me 2 hours to thoroughly read 50 pages worth of text and cases. If I was still a 1L getting used to the amount of readings that law school requires, this probably would've taken me an entire afternoon. The only upside to reading this much so often is that you get quicker at it.

Another plus about being an upperclassman is that the curve actually gets easier after the first year. I'm sure this is to weed out all of the people who either don't seriously want to be lawyers or just don't have the dedication to do all of the assignments. At my old school, the curve as a 1L required that the average grade be a B- and for 2L's it was a B. Here, the curve for 1L's was a C and now it's all the was up to a B. I've survived the curve for two semesters so I'm not really scared of it anymore, but that is very comforting to know.

It also seems like there's more opportunities as a 2L. A lot of clinics or positions aren't even open until after your 1L year because that year is supposed to be dedicated to getting used to law school. But now as an older student I get preference for these over any 1L's, because of my experience and that they know I won't flunk out if I take on another project.

The Bad

Obviously the most stressful thing of being a 2L is that now it's really time to get serious about getting a legal job. Non-law-related jobs aren't really an option any more because I always need more job experience. And now I'm competing against people who clerked last summer or are even still doing it. I'm fortunate that firms usually prefer a 2L, but I still feel the pressure to get something lined up already.

An unfortunate downside to transferring is that I'm kinda behind. I know a lot of people who are officers in their organizations or write for a journal, but I wasn't here last spring when these positions were available. I also missed out on all of the scholarships because their due dates were before I was even accepted. So now I have to go to all these info sessions with the 1L's to try to catch up.

Overall

I think the reason why being a 2L isn't nearly as bad as a 1L is that you have so much more confidence. As a 1L I constantly felt like I wasn't good enough and that I was just faking being smart. But now I've passed a full year with pretty decent grades so I have the been-there-done-that confidence. That's not to say that I'm invincible, though, because I still spend all class hoping that I don't get called on even though I read the cases because it's so nerve-wrecking trying to answer the professor's trick questions. I know this post wasn't long, but this is all I've noticed these past two weeks. But I'm sure there will be a lot more new experiences that I'll face as a 2L. 

Snapchats

2 weeks as a 2L | brazenandbrunette.com

2 weeks as a 2L | brazenandbrunette.com


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