To celebrate International Vlogging Day 2020, we're talking to legal vlogger extraordinaire Chrissie Wolfe about building a substantial online audience.
Chrissie Wolfe looks into the camera and takes a deep breath. “I got a C, a D and two Es”, she admits, referring to her A-level results. “Pretty poor, really, when it comes to a career in law”.
Few people go on to qualify as a solicitor with those kind of results; fewer still would want to dwell on them. What makes Wolfe even more unusual is that she’s broadcasting it on YouTube, where the personal injury solicitor vlogs as Law and Broader. Why does she do it?
“I didn’t have a particularly easy journey breaking into law”, Wolfe reflects. “I didn’t have the best A-levels in the world or a lot of connections. I struggled with the process and I think a lot of people in my position wouldn’t have bothered trying in the first place”. Having been there and done that - via an access course in chemistry, followed by a full science degree at the University of Birmingham and then a ULaw conversion course - the Brummie’s motivation is to make the path into the profession that bit easier for those, who, like her, don’t immediately fit the profile.
In Law and Broader’s first ever video, she tells her viewers: “I would have appreciated somebody like me doing this channel when I was applying for training contracts”. It’s very similar to what Eloise Skinner, profiled elsewhere in this issue, had to say about her handbook for junior lawyers (“it’s something I wished I’d had”). There’s something about trying to fill the information gaps that you spotted when coming through the ranks before you get too senior to relate.
Wolfe is now several years qualified and working with Irwin Mitchell, a big-hitting national law firm perhaps best known for personal injury. She’s won several awards and commendations in her professional life, most recently being shortlisted at the Law Society awards for her “pioneering work” on international cosmetic surgery cases. Seeking compensation for those whose touch-ups abroad have been botched is satisfying stuff -- particularly if you have an aptitude for the comparative law challenges it brings.
“If you have surgery in Belgium or Poland, for example, we can bring the case in the English court but it will be Belgian or Polish law that applies to the case”, Wolfe explains. “That brings up interesting legal scenarios, and we have to get in experts on that law to prepare reports and give evidence on what the law in that country is”.
Don’t take Verdict’s word for it: Wolfe’s YouTube vid on Life as a Cosmetic Surgery Lawyer tells it best. But as the channel’s name implies, her output isn’t just career-related. She also does “Broader” videos that see her driving Ferraris, attending restaurant openings and hitting up Legoland Birmingham.
“I think it makes the profession a bit more appealing when you see that someone’s actually got a life. It can be a concern for students, that they’re signing their life away when they become a lawyer… I wanted to show that we’re real people too”. Even the legal videos are kept chill and casual -- being lectured by someone in a suit isn’t particularly relatable, as Wolfe points out.
She chose YouTube as her platform on the advice of her friend Charlotte Ruff, a fellow law grad who was big in Disney vlogging -- and scored a job with the company off the back of it. We’re yet to hear of someone nabbing a job in law based on social media footprint, but there’s always a first time...
All this demands commitment: each short video takes up most of a Sunday, between preparation, two or three shoots and editing. But the result is an impressive spread of law student-friendly topics, from training contract applications to interview prep to on-the-job skills like networking, negotiating and time recording. She also covers commercial awareness, aiming to act as a “conduit” between students and what’s going on in the market.
Wolfe sees it, in part, as a more efficient form of work she was already doing in real life. “I did a lot of mentoring before I launched the channel, but there’s only so many hours in the day”, she says. “I saw YouTube as an extension of that - online mentoring, really. Instead of three or four mentees, I’ve now got 3,000”. That’s the number of subscribers to her channel at the time we speak, and she’s well into six figures on views overall.
She’d like to think that it also sets an example for fellow lawyers to get creative and think outside the box: just because law is a highly regulated profession doesn’t mean lawyers have to be boring. “Cultivating an existing platform in an innovative way to do good is something that I definitely want to encourage other people to do”, Wolfe tells us. If her trajectory is anything to go by, it’s doesn’t hurt career-wise either.
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