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Category: Blog

Leading Government Minister visits DictateNow to see latest innovations

We are delighted to have welcomed one of the leading politicians in the country to our headquarters in Hertfordshire. The Paymaster General, the Right Hon. Oliver Dowden MP, visited our offices recently to oversee the work being done by DictateNow and ServicesNowGroup. Mr Dowden, who is the MP for Hertsmere, is one of the most senior legal figures in the UK, and his visit coincidentally comes in the wake of The Law Society of England and Wales having chosen DictateNow, the UK’s largest and first dictation outsourcing firm as its preferred supplier for the next year. He spent a considerable time at our office learning more about our company, our work, and he met our team – many of whom live within his constituency, an area where he grew up and now represents in Parliament. We are honoured that such a high ranking Government official took time out of his challenging schedule to find out more about us and the work we are doing in many fields and also to hear about our partnership with The Law Society. His visit is a major highlight for us at a very exciting time for Dictatenow and the ServicesNowGroup, as we continue to forge ahead and employing high-quality committed individuals who share our vision. Pic: Garry Park, Co-Founder of DictateNow with Oliver Dowden MP
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Tomorrow’s World shows no sign of time poverty cure

Some of us will remember a TV show called Tomorrows World on BBC1. It was a much loved programme showcasing the latest scientific developments of the time giving us a glimpse into what the future might hold. Whilst some of the inventions came to fruition and some didn’t, what many of us will agree with is it seemed to have an overarching message, which miscalculated the amount of leisure time we would have. Often, in the episodes of the 70s and 80s especially, it painted an image of many of us with plenty of hours to devote to fun following all the wonderful time-saving inventions in our homes - a glorious future, which, lets’ face it has never really materialised. Instead, technology, a 24 -7 world economy, less employment stability, and many other societal changes means we are chronically time poor. The legal profession is a particularly fine example of time poverty as we get set for another decade in our super-connected, modern 21st century world. Time and stress has had a huge effect on all of us, with burn out, mental health problems, and many other intolerable issues affecting an ever-demanding profession. For these issues, and whilst debate rages, there are currently no magic pills, waves of a wand or simple answers. The only solution at the moment is self-management, the management of time, which is a huge and complex subject. The best solicitors, barristers in all walks of legal life, also seem to be the most in control, because they concentrate on the important and either ignore or delegate other demands on their time. These top performers, we are pleased to say, are often our customers. They are those who have delegated DictateNow to do their transcriptions. Rather than tap away on a laptop, often with two fingers, they use our experienced, super speedy legal typists, leaving them time to concentrate on higher vale work and other more enjoyable activities, many of which aren’t work related. Perhaps they choose to cook a meal for their partner, maybe go to see their child play football, or they might choose to look after their health by going for a run, or the gym. Perhaps they do all of them! Whatever it is, it isn’t spending more time at a laptop than they need to, wearing themselves out. The need for the clarity to use time wisely is something, which has meant many new businesses have blossomed, something which I’m sure Tomorrows World must have predicted. However, what is clear on a philosophical level is regardless of what some may say, we are all captains of our own destiny. The clarity to realise the best way to spend our lives and call on others help when needed is possibly the greatest skill for all those who wish to get that elusive work/life balance. It is something that cannot be underestimated in today’s world, and we doubt in tomorrow’s either. If you wish to discuss our legal dictation services, and find out how we, at DictateNow may help lighten your workload and find time to live a higher quality life, we are happy to talk to you now.
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A former solicitor, who, at the turn of the 21st Century, set up DictateNow, a digital dictation and outsourcing business, Maxine Park has, quite literally, written her way into success books. A lawyer working in commercial litigation in London, Maxine Park became a partner at her firm in 1992 at age 30. “At the age of 15, I did one week’s work experience in a firm of solicitors as part of my school studies and from then on I knew I wanted to study law. My school careers advice was to work in a bank/study nursing/become a secretary but I did not want to be limited by these choices. “Therefore, throughout my university study I spent holidays/summer holidays working in local firms of solicitors to gain experience. I feel this dedication paid off when I secured a training contract/articles to train as a solicitor with Sharpe Pritchard & Co Solicitors a prestigious solicitors in Holborn who were also parliamentary agents.” During her time at the firm, Maxine gained first-hand experience as a fee earner and then moved to Harris, Rosenblatt & Kramer, where she became a partner involved in management of the practice, which was to later give her great insight when she ran her own business. Maxine decided to work from home after she had her first child; however, after the birth of her second child, she left legal practice, attained a PGCE and lectured law to legal executives, HR personnel, and journalism students at Brunel University. “I was a qualified solicitor with several years’ experience under my belt. However, when I had my first son, I approached the head of litigation partner to propose a home-working solution for me so that I could continue to practise as a solicitor but avoid the daily commute to London to gain more time with my son outside of working hours. “Now, looking back, I feel I was a pioneer in being the only remote worker in my firm, particularly as a solicitor in my field, it was an unheard of practice at that time in a country of solely office-based workers. Indeed, I believe this early experience of remote working has helped me to have a window to the new world we are in where so many people now work from home, coffee shops, and so on.” In 2002, Maxine launched DictateNow with husband Garry to offer an enhanced and efficient transcription resource to businesses in a wide range of sectors including legal, medical and accountancy. Her experience as a solicitor and home-working parent directly led to the formation of the compaany, which now employs over 300 home-based typists. “In my time as a practising litigation solicitor I saw that many fee earners did not want to type their own documentation primarily because they were very slow at typing as well as wasting valuable billable hours typing when that time could be better-served fee earning. All solicitors have target billing hours each month to meet – and these were non-billable work hours. I recognised the opportunity and started working on it.” Maxine’s husband’s background was in IT, which seemed spot on for the creation of their new transcription business as it that would depend entirely on technology, be it computers or a dictaphone . “We came up with an idea of a system where solicitors could dictate their work as they usually did to a secretary but instead of having their own one to one dedicated secretary – very expensive and often not fully-occupied with typing/admin – the solicitor could send the work to DictateNow to transcribe with fast, accurate turnaround times. “The practice manager at the solicitors firm where I worked was looking to trial a similar idea and I persuaded him to allow me to trial the system that Garry and I had created. I knew what was needed from the DictateNow transcribe system because I worked in that environment and could see the pitfalls of the then working system between solicitor and secretary. Needless to say the trial was a success and my firm were DictateNow’s first client and is still a client.” According to Maxine, her firm takes pride in offering a fast, reliable and confidential digital dictation, transcription, document production and general business support services for many professional organisations, including solicitors, barristers, accountancy firms, medical professionals, MPs, as well as several FTSE250 firms in a wide range of sectors including legal, medical and accountancy. Over time, the two directors developed the DictateNow software and outsourcing systems, which have proved to be quite successful. “The software has been designed ‘by lawyers for lawyers’ who fully understand and appreciate the necessity and demands for a business to provide a cost effective quality service for our clients. The DictateNow software provides a solution for transcriptions which meets these demands.” In addition to the recent ISO 22301 certification for business continuity provisions, DictateNow is also ISO 9001 certified in recognition of its quality assurance system and ISO 27001 certified, which demonstrates that the firm protects clients’ data adequately and follows information security best practice. Over the last three years, as part of the firm’s expansion and commitment to provide local support, DictateNow three regional offices established in Glasgow, Belfast, and Manchester. Maxine believes the reason for her success is her entrepreneurial spirit and ability to take calculated risks. “I think many lawyers have an entrepreneurial spirit, but very few take the chance. The more I thought about how my idea could work for law firms the more excited I got. All businesses have to be there to serve a need and the expansion of the company since we started is a natural progression of what we started as the 21st Century began. When customers are happy with your work and want you to do more, you have to find a way of serving this need, but not compromise quality.”  
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Barristers - the do’s and don’ts of outsourcing

By Maxine Park, Solicitor and Co-Founder of transcription and office support services provider, DictateNow It would be fair to say that there is a generalisation that barristers are resistant to change. However, generalisations can be sweeping, and can fail to address the bigger picture of change when it comes to barristers and with outsourcing that is certainly the case. Indeed, the whole legal profession is rooted in tradition, however in our modern, 24-7 fast-paced world, technology has impacted on a much more fluid world of work, and there are many barristers who are increasingly looking at more efficient ways of collaborating with others to lessen their workload. For that reason, outsourcing their transcription work is becoming something many barristers are investigating. Despite this though, the first tentative steps into delegating others to take this on can seem fraught with uncertainty. Hiring the wrong person or company may seem too big a risk when facing a formidable judge ready to explode at poorly put together legal documents allowing the incredibly precious commodity of court time to be wasted. This factor is probably the strongest reason why overworked barristers toil long into the night, often tapping away on two fingers to ensure they can escape the humiliation of being given a dressing down in a courtroom. Sadly though, it’s this not letting go, which is the reason why barristers are now experiencing levels of stress never seen before. Indeed, this very magazine presented an in-depth and worrying picture of how the stressful life of the modern barrister is placing health at risk in an article in 2017 following the Bar’s 2015 health survey. Of course, stress can be counteracted in many ways, but without going off message, it surely seems obvious that lessening workloads can only improve mental well-being. So, outsourcing one of the most time consuming tasks in a barrister’s work is a very sensible place to start. The little time taken to initially do your homework in outsourcing transcription, is something which many with sufficiently large workloads will feel is well worth the time. It is, one of those simple to do things, which are vitally important, but seldom urgent. It is also more cost-effective utilising experienced legal secretaries whose hourly costs, needless to say, are a small fraction of a highly trained barrister’s rate. It needn’t be littered with danger either. After all, barristers need assurances and good businesses will give them this. After all, the legal world is particularly sensitive and dictation specialists, such as us have worked hard to attain ISO standards in confidentiality, security, quality and business continuity. We believe this is vital as there can be no room for error in such areas. Established dictation specialists, like ourselves at DictateNow should be able to present a compelling case - after all, it is these outsourced firms who have taken on the learning curve, as we did when we started in the early part of the 2000s. For instance, employing qualified legal secretaries who have specific areas of expertise in niche legal specialisms meaning they have extremely high levels of efficiency. Formatting, presentation, the correct layout for the right document, is something that should be expected. If a dictation outsourcer can’t give you these kind of assurances, then it’s time to move on. Of course, it is worth pointing out that legal secretaries are human and, of course, errors are made. Misinterpretation of words for instance happens, and examples are Walsall in the West Midlands being mistaken for Warsaw. However, these problems can be intercepted as good dictation specialists should have a quality assurance team who painstakingly pore over every document as soon as it is written. It is a part of a process that irons out almost all errors. Also, despite our country being a very cosmopolitan place, regional accents can still present difficulties. That is why we decided that it made sense to have people who understand accents. As much as possible we match dictation requirements with people who are familiar with that accent. For instance, a dictation from someone with a Scottish accent would be done by someone in our Glasgow team. Little things like this can make a difference. Barristers also need to be aware that turnaround from dictation specialists is quick. Once a standard document is transcribed it is checked and then can be back within an hour. Of course, it tends to take even the best legal secretary roughly three times the length of time it takes to dictate to type, so it means it would take an hour long interview three hours to type up. However, for a barrister who has had a gruelling day of interviewing is that three hours spent better elsewhere than in front of a laptop? Good legal secretaries are also adept at handling multi voice conferences too. So long as it is made clear by the barrister who the various parties are, at the start of the interview, this is very straightforward. A vital point, which hasn’t been covered, is, of course, the very fact that dictation machines are not even needed today when conducting interviews. It can be done on a quality mobile phone, and, for instance, there are apps, which can be installed on mobiles, which makes the experience so much easier. This is especially worthy of comment as there are some barristers who still use analogue dictation machines. Whilst some barristers will be unwilling to change, there are some sufficiently fed up with the old way of doing things to explore a change. Maybe they need a little more convincing, or a demonstration, but once they see the benefits, we’re sure they will rue the wasted time of the old school ways. There are so many reasons why it makes sense to look at outsourcing for this particular component of a barrister’s life. It is one of those tasks that once you’ve done it, you will wish you had many moons ago. Maxine Park, Solicitor and Co-Founder of transcription and office support services provider, DictateNow  
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International Women’s Day marked by showing the difference remote working can make

Today marks International Women’s Day, an event celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and is very much a focal point for the promotion of women’s rights. An annual event, the day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. The role of women has changed greatly in recent generations, putting such a huge strain on women as they balance looking after family with work commitments. This does not go unnoticed by us at DictateNow, as so many of our workforce are women and to mark this important day, we have asked all of our typists to share their life stories with us, with the reward of gift vouchers for the most inspiring tale. Remote working has in many ways liberated women, especially mums working part time school hours to accommodate their young children, while trying to provide an income for their family. Equally, at the other end, there are women caring for their elderly parents. Our aim is to raise awareness of their achievements and challenge stereotypes, such as homeworkers cannot get work elsewhere! After all, remote working was started by women and has now been adopted countrywide. The tale of our co-founder, Maxine Park lends testament to homeworking. A qualified solicitor, she was given the opportunity 30 years ago to set up a remote office from home with a landline phone link from the office. In those pre-internet days, a courier travelled to her home each morning with client files and tapes for dictations, and returned later in the day to collect the files and dictated tapes for a secretary to transcribe. It seems almost archaic now. DictateNow was set up in part to offer other women a similar opportunity to the one Maxine had as a solicitor, looking to balance work with a young family. This knowledge means we offer flexible working hours to suit woman and also time off for family emergencies, appointments etc. Heartwarming stories from our workforce includes a lady, who works from her canal boat, who teamed up with us after the politics at the law firm she worked for changed for the worse. She said: “Gone are the days where I had to sit on a bus for over two hours a day. I can switch my PC off at 4pm and I'm already home!” To add to this, instead of the gossip of work politics she said she has peace and quiet, with ducks quacking outside her window. Another female colleague told us how she no longer out of the house for 12 hours a day and comes home in a bad mood, but instead found time to give her daughter a hot meal every day and guide her through her education. She said it has made her so much happier. What homeworking, a huge part of our business, has done is give women time and freedom. We at DictateNow are glad to be playing a part in the battle for equality. There’s a long way to go, but let’s hope by International Women’s Day next year more strides are made. Contact us if you would like to know more about working at DictateNow or for more information on any of our services.
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Our Story: Maxine Park of DictateNow

Today we focus on Maxine Park, a former solicitor, who in 2002 set up DictateNow, a digital Dictation and Outsourcing business, which now has four regional offices across the UK. She tells how she took the plunge into entrepreneurship thanks to a happy accident, and how she grew the successful business, whilst catering around the needs of a young family.  In many ways, I’m very much an accidental entrepreneur. After all, if someone had said to me 20 years ago, when I was in my 30s with two infant boys, that I’d now be a director of a successful firm, I’d have thought it was about as likely as Donald Trump being US president one day! However, a chance request by my boss, back at the turn of the 21stcentury has led my life down a very different path to the one I had known and was happily steering me in a very different direction. At the time, I was a solicitor working in commercial litigation on the outskirts of London and I was very much your typical working professional mum, trying to balance work and family, which all working mothers know is an incredibly difficult task. The solicitors at the firm had been asked to do our own typing, as the firm had cut back on support staff, and it really wasn’t working. To be honest, I was probably one of the worst typists imaginable, and the issue was getting us all down. Aware of this, the firm enquired if I could offer an alternative.

A stroke of luck

It was good fortune that my husband Garry was a software programmer and designer, who had worked on programmes for treasury systems, so was aware of security issues, which tied in nicely around transcription services for law firms. At the same time, due to my research, we had heard of a South African firm that had a system to help law firms and we were more than happy to try this. We did, but it wasn’t up to scratch, so it was then up to us to come up with something better. Garry’s system was tested by me and I was really pleased with it. However, the only proof of the pudding was if others in the firm were happy too. They then trialled the software and they also liked what they saw. Suddenly, we had a business idea! My employers, Stock Fraser Cukier became my first client and slowly but surely word spread to other firms about what we were doing and we gained more customers. It is the nature of the legal industry that it is slow to change, but once trust in doing something different is proven, then change does follow. This is very much what we saw. Being a lawyer myself, I felt I was in a great position to help sell our solution to law firms, as they saw me as someone they could totally relate to.

Making the leap into uncharted waters

Within 18 months, I had the confidence to leave my job, but I can’t say it was an easy decision. I was the main breadwinner but with a handful of clients, it felt the right thing to do. Those early years though, were especially challenging. My boys Elliott and Daniel were 9 and 12 at the time and whilst they needed a lot less handling than very young children, they still needed their mum. I was always conscious of this, but there were times when we had to call in favours from friends for childcare and support. Of course, the school holidays was particularly difficult, but that’s the case with all parents. It is a real juggling act. After all, technology was very different to how it is now. The software had to be installed manually in typist’s homes, so it meant I was on the road more than I would have liked to be. In those days, there were many sleepless nights, worrying about the business and if I was doing the right thing, but despite the difficulties, Garry and I felt our little venture was gaining momentum. For everyone who has a small business, you are very much a jack of all trades, doing mailshots one minute, then calls, then chasing money, it really was frenetic at times.

Now almost 20 years on 

I almost have to pinch myself at times to see what we’ve achieved. We have hundreds of law firms using DictateNow, as well as firms in the medical sector, government bodies and others besides. It has just kept the momentum going, and we have always kept our eye on the ball about what customers want, the way the world changes and been brave enough to take risks when we felt there was a good chance they would come off. We work near our home, with our headquarters in Borehamwood, where we have 16 people work alongside us. Of course, then we have other offices in Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. To add to this, we have a huge team of over 200 transcription specialists who work from home. It is good to know many of them are mums and we are helping them to get that balance of being there for their families. We’ve come a long way thanks to that fortuitous question all those years ago.

Advice for being a Mumpreneur 

If you have a business idea, my simple advice is to go for it, and take the risk. After all, if you don’t the regrets will only increase as the years go by. I was fortunate that I had a profession I could fall back on if it hadn’t worked out, but I still think if people have the belief in themselves regardless of circumstances they should go for their dreams! Although I accidentally fell into this, I have to say I’ve always been a risk taker, which may be a little out of the norm for a solicitor. However, I think all of us can underestimate our potential and especially mums. After all, mums have the greatest time management skills and are great at building a strong social network. DictateNow has worked out well for us as a husband and wife, and as a family too. Our sons have had a very different take on life being brought up in a household where we are building a business. Our son Daniel now works with us, but this was never designed, as he had several years working elsewhere. However, he brings great skills to the business. Life is certainly very different to how it was 20 years ago, but although we’ve had our challenges on the way, I wouldn’t change a thing.
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Law firm’s PR own goal highlights efficiency in secretarial services

Like all industries, we in the world of digital transcription can occasionally come across odd news stories that are connected to the work we do. A recent, somewhat bizarre tale is one of an American law firm, who were charging a client a $40,000 each month for its secretaries (approximately £31,000). Latham & Watkins scored a PR own goal working with a large corporate client, who noted some print on a bill. When they asked about it, they were told that, “unlike other firms, we do not inflate our hourly rates to include our overheads.” Quite understandably, the client pointed out that as the firm was charging its partner out at a substantial sum, which could probably include quite a lot of overheads, the law firm could pay for its own secretaries. In an era where grumblings can be picked up and shared on the web in seconds, the law firm are probably now wishing they hadn’t been quite so brazen. It also highlights to us, how the huge cost of employing staff means overheads at some law firms are far greater than they should be. One thing we know, having been involved so closely with many of the UK’s top law firms for so many years, is no two law firms are alike. However, increasingly in a much more fluid professional world, there are so many firms who see outsourcing their secretarial services as a sensible step. After all, employing staff is an expensive business, and it causes all manner of issues, which can be draining on a business. Of course, there are those law firms, which see having many staff in-house as an important part of the company’s culture. We respect that, but there are those looking to innovate who believe there are better ways to do things that can make their organisation more cutting edge. Thankfully, this is beneficial to outsourcing, and to businesses like ours. We offer everything that an in-house team can do, and for many firms this can work out as a better long term solution with transcription services. If you wish to know more, we are happy to help and of course, provide testimonials. Perhaps, even Latham & Watkins would like to give us a call!
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Law firms warm to outsourcing in a much changed world

It is fair to say that in a much changed world, law firms are adapting to different ways of working, in a way almost unimaginable a generation ago. Technology, business savvy solicitors, the Legal Services Act of 2007, and more besides have all come together to disrupt the legal world, changing the landscape forever. One of the ways it has changed is a growing acceptance of outsourcing work to businesses supporting law firms. It means marketing, IT, and digital dictation professionals like ourselves have prospered allowing law firms to concentrate on the law. This more fluid structure has seen a gradual erosion of old views, opinions such as : “People from outside don’t understand or care about our business as much as we do.” Whilst we at DictateNow are pleased that these old-world thoughts are changing, there are, of course, many solicitors who still adhere to traditional philosophies. It’s far from a black and white argument as well. In solicitors offices the length and breadth of the land, there will be debates at senior level about whether outsourcing is a good or bad idea. All good lawyers have a view where they consider the evidence, so rather than us trying to convince you, we believe a good place to start is examining the pros and cons, and this excellent document from The Law Society is certainly worth a read. For those wishing to present an argument of how your firm can flourish through outsourcing transcription services to us, have a good look around the internet. See how it works for businesses like you. Talk to firms who are fans, read testimonials, such as those on our website. Build up evidence! Good suppliers of outsourcing services to law firms will give re-assurances. For instance, we are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and our services are ISO 27001:2013 certified – the internationally recognised standard for information security management. Also, we are ISO 9001:2015 certified in recognition of our commitment to quality and ISO 22301:2012 certified for our business continuity arrangements. Outsourcing has changed, it can help everyone from law firms to medical companies into other specialised areas in a competitive world. We think it is safe to say it is a trend that will continue to grow as the 21st century heads into the 2020s. If you are minded to investigate outsourcing your transcription services, more details about how we can work with you are available here. Please bookmark it for future reference. Please contact us if you wish to ask any more questions. We are happy to help.  
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Transcription services survive the festive season

There is no hiding from the fact that as the dark nights pull in, and the temperatures plummet, the Christmas build up is beginning to take hold. Trees are beginning to make their appearances through many a front room window, and shops are seeing the annual surge as the countdown to the festive season begins. December sees a slowdown in productivity in the UK, but it virtually grinds to a halt between Christmas and New Year, known as the ‘Office Dead Zone’ by many. This annual arrival can present many headaches for businesses, so it’s time to talk turkey, and by this we don’t mean the festive dinner. Frustratingly, for some businesses, they find they still have work to do, but very few staff to do it over the festive season. One such area in great need is transcription services, as we have found from many a Christmas past. A huge number of firms need urgent documents typed up but are hindered due to the wind-down. That is why we believe now is the perfect time for businesses to think about how they manage the festive season and assuring them that our turnaround is even faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve night! We pride ourselves in ensuring all our dictation services are UK based and we have many hundreds of qualified, experienced secretaries on hand to ensure whatever documentation you need help with, we’re here to help. We have a huge range of specialisms, including reception and call handling services and we’re here 7 days a week, including evenings. Completed transcriptions are back with you in approximately 45 minutes for standard dictations, which includes rigorous checking by our quality assurance team. To add to this,DictateNow is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and our services are ISO 27001:2013 certified – the internationally recognised standard for information security management. Also, we are ISO 9001:2015 certified in recognition of our commitment to quality and ISO 22301:2012 certified for our business continuity arrangements. More details about how we can work with you are available here. Please bookmark it for future reference. Christmas is there to be enjoyed, but it is good to know that when work needs to be done, we are here 365 days a year. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
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DictateNow Services Limited. Registered in England. Company No 12140083. Registered office 5 Elstree Gate, Elstree Way, Borehamwood Herts, WD6 1JD
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