Law and Broader – Chrissie Wolfe – S2E5

This week our host Rob Hanna was honoured to be joined by the amazing Chrissie Wolfe! Founder of the hit YouTube Channel, ‘Law and Broader‘ | Solicitor of The Year 2019 | Woman of The Year 2019 | Legal Vlogger & Mentor | Lawtech Geek | Winner of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year, 2018 in Legal | Chair of Birmingham Junior Lawyers Division & day by day if that’s not enough a Solicitor at a Top 20 Law Firm in the UK! 


Rob Hanna: Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast, powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week I’m honoured to be joined by the amazing Chrissie Wolfe, founder of the hit YouTube channel, ‘Law & Broader’, Solicitor of the Year 2019, Woman of the Year 2019, legal blogger and mentor, law tech geek, winner of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year 2018 in Legal, Chair of Birmingham Junior Lawyers Division, and day by day, if that’s not enough, a solicitor at a top 20 law firm in the UK. So welcome, Chrissie.  

Chrissie Wolfe: Hello! Thanks very much for having me, lovely to be here.  

Rob Hanna: Not at all! I mean, that’s quite an impressive introduction, and I guess we have to, which is customary on the Legally Speaking Podcast, start with our icebreaker question. Suits. So on the scale of 1 to 10. 10 being very real, in your opinion, what do you give it out of 10?

Chrissie Wolfe: Oh, I thought you were gonna ask me which character I’d be then. I was – 

Rob Hanna: Oh we can add that in as well!

Chrissie Wolfe: Uh, on how realistic it is. Oh, I think compared to being an English lawyer, very, very unrealistic. I’d probably give it a 2 or 3 on the realism scale.

Rob Hanna: Yeah.  

Chrissie Wolfe: But I know US litigation is quite different, so it may be more similar to that, but I’m pretty sure even in the US you don’t get lawyers who are  jacks of all trades, and just deal with a totally different area of law every single day.

Rob Hanna: And character then?

Chrissie Wolfe: Oh, I’m Jessica all day. Well, I’d like to think that I’m Jessica, whether I’m actually Jessica, I don’t know. But she’s, she’s my idol, I think. 

Rob Hanna: Pearson Wolfe. That has a bit of a ring to it.   

Chrissie Wolfe: Ah yeah thats good you know. That’s good.

Rob Hanna: Yeah, that could be the next one.    

Chrissie Wolfe: Yep, yep.   

Rob Hanna: So look, we need to try and digest your journey in a short period of time because it is really amazing, and I know we share a lot of contacts particularly through the London Young Lawyers Group and in the legal world generally. But I want to talk about your journey of basically how someone, who I believe got C D E E at their A Level grades has gone on to achieve and do so much for the legal sector. Because I generally think that’s a truly inspirational story and I think it shows with the right drive and passion. You can really achieve anything, right?

Chrissie Wolfe: Right, it still makes me shudder when I hear them said out loud.

Both: [Laughter]  

Rob Hanna: So let’s start from the beginning then. Did you always want to be a lawyer?

Chrissie Wolfe: No, not at all. I’m a very late convert to law actually. I always wanted to be a vet.  

Rob Hanna: Okay.  

Chrissie Wolfe: So I’ve got a kind of a weird backstory that I was home educated when I was younger, so well, into my teenage years. Yeah, my mum actually taught me at home. So I was homeschooled.    

Rob Hanna: Oh wow.   

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, very early on, surrounded by animals. So I always wanted to be a vet, and that was my dream, when I grew up ,to be a vet. Did ok in my in my exams as I was growing up, and then as soon as I went to school, academics just started going downhill. I think that was probably largely due to a massive culture shock, really changing learning style, changing, you know, the whole, the whole method of teaching, being around people my own age, just really changed up everything really for me. And my academics suffered quite a lot as a result of that, which is how I ended up with such poor A levels. And being a vet requires almost well, actually, definitely as good academics as being a lawyer. So very, very academic subjects. So instantly I knew that I wasn’t gonna be able to kind of fulfil my dream of going to vet school. So, but I was still determined that that’s what I wanted to do. And I’d been given a provisional place at Birmingham Uni to study animal biology, which is what I thought was gonna be my route in. And I thought I’ll do my animal biology degree, hopefully do well in that, and then I can do a post grad. 

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: Or at least kind of convert, maybe knock a couple of years off my vet degree. That was the plan. Did not hit my grades even, to get into animal biology to go to Birmingham Uni. So had to rethink that, but I was still really determined to go to Birmingham uni as well. I just, out of all the universities I visited, Birmingham, I just loved I just got such a great feel for it as soon as I went there and I just thought, this is, this is the place, I don’t want to go anywhere else. So I had to ring up Birmingham uni and argue with them basically. And they said,’Look, you’re just nowhere near the grades, for animal biology, [Laughter] you know, sorry. Call back another day when you’ve got better A level grades’. So I had to ring, ring around a bit, actually. Just rang all the different science departments just anybody’s whose number I could find.    

Rob Hanna: Yep.   

Chrissie Wolfe: I rang to try and plead with them, to tell them my story and hopefully somebody would accept me. So eventually I found somebody who was very nice and said, ‘Well, you’re not gonna get into any of our primary science degrees. However, we do offer a foundation course in chemistry’, at which point my eyes roll back in my head because I’d hated chemistry. 

Both: [Laughter]  

Chrissie Wolfe: I’d done biology, chemistry, physics and maths at A Level because that was a really sensible decision.

Both: [Laughter]  

Chrissie Wolfe: Chemistry just, chemistry and maths, were my least favourite out of those too. So when they said the foundation course is chemistry, I just thought, oh, this is, this is the worst news. But if this is the way I’m going to get into Birmingham uni.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: Then this is what I’m gonna have to do. So suck it up. So basically I did my foundation course in chemistry. They said, by the way, you also have to get a First in that, if you want to then progress onto one of our undergraduate science degrees.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: So I said, right, okay, great. Also have to get First. So I did that. I did accept my place doing foundation chemistry, and I did get a First and they did then let me start on my animal biology degree from first year. So then went on to do my animal biology degree, graduated three years later. So I spent a total of four years at uni. Then then as I was coming to the end of my biology degree, kind of thought, I’m not sure if I want to do another five years at uni, which is what it would require still to be a vet, even with the animal biology degree. So I kind of started looking into other options and didn’t really have another option. Had never really thought about doing anything else, in all honesty. I went to a careers adviser at Birmingham uni who said, and I went to him and said, look what people do with with my degree? And he said, ‘Oh, you could go into  research’. I did not fancy research. Or you could go into teaching? Didn’t really want to do that either.  And then the third thing he came up, he goes ‘actually, quite a lot people with science degrees end up going into law.’ And I kind of, hesitated and thought, because I pictured law as, you know, big stuffy offices, loads of paperwork.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: Not for me. I was kind of an outdoorsy girl, I’d done horse riding, to a fairly high level. And I really didn’t kind of like that, the thought of it. But I thought, ok, let’s look at this. And maybe let’s do some work experience and he kind of showed me that there were different facets, that it wasn’t all contracts and corporate and commercial. There were actually a lot of different facets of the law. One of them was medical law, which kind of appeals, given my science background, I was quite, quite interested in doing that. So I kind of did a bit of research into different areas. I looked into intellectual property as well because that’s another kind of major area that people tend to go into with science degrees. So I looked at those two primarily and then decided that I really was more keen on doing the medical side of things and definitely the claimant side, because I was much more of a people person. And intellectual property still is quite kind of corporate and commercial, and I really wanted to work with people or animals.

Chrissie Wolfe: Either, or!

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter] But, I’d abandoned that so it was going to be people.

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Less furry people.  

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter] Yeah, exactly. Yes. So, yes, really proceeded that route, again was obviously met with the same hurdle that I’d had several years before, in that going into law is a really academic career, and there was me thinking that I’d kind of gotten over that by getting a First in my foundation chemistry and then going on to get 2:1 in animal biology. But no, A Levels still important, sadly. 

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: Even though they were several years before. So, I kind of was reliving my nightmare all over again, trying to apply for training contracts.

Rob Hanna: Well, that was gonna be my next question. How did you manage to secure a training contract with your current firm? And how did you handle any rejections along the way, as obviously we get a lot of people writing in saying ‘I’m losing the will’, you know. ‘is it gonna really happen?’ So, yeah. Tell us your journey.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah. So I think I settled early on, on what area that I wanted to do. I was really keen on doing the medical law side of things. And then within that, I looked at different firms and unfortunately, I was actually really fortunate in that the biggest firm for personal injury and medical negligence is Irwin Mitchell, and they actually don’t put as much focus on academics. They don’t have a minimum academic requirement, which a lot of law firms do. Cause I knew I was gonna have to be realistic and I did apply initially, kind of, and during my final year of uni before I’d really settled on exactly what area of law I wanted to do, I sort of scatter gunned a few different places and found that the places where they had really high academic requirements, I was pretty much just banned from applying as soon as I got to that stage.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: They sort of, this notice that came up said, ‘You cannot proceed any further with your application because you don’t have the grades required’ and even ones that would let me proceed, just, you know, I wasn’t going to get very far. So I was quite conscious by the time I got into my second year applying, which is when I started my GDL and had really kind of focused where the area of law I wanted to do, and where I wanted to apply. I was very conscious of just not not . Applying to places where I just didn’t meet the criteria was miles off because I was just gonna be a pointless and, you know, painful experience. There was there was no way that I was going to get through. So I was realistic and where I applied to and I did apply to places which placed more emphasis on kind of transferable skills and work experience because I had a lot of that. I’ve done a lot of different types of work, and I had done quite a few legal work placements by the time I got round to my second round applying. So I was conscious of that. And fortunately, the main place I wanted to apply to, actually didn’t have place as much focus on academic. So I was really lucky in that respect. So I get a lot of people kind of saying, ‘Oh, you know, I’ve not got very good A levels, please can you tell me the firm’s to apply to?’ And I said, well I don’t think you should really do it like that. I think you need to, you need to know what your passion is. You need to to know what area of law you want to go into and then look within that, because otherwise if you start selecting where you want to apply just based on the grade boundaries. Then you’re not going to get very far.

Rob Hanna: No.

Chrissie Wolfe: You know, it’s kind of pulling the cart before the horse in a way, because you know, you’re going to end up doing something that you don’t want to do, in a place you don’t want to be, and you probably won’t even get through the process either if that’s been your selection criteria,  just based on what their academic requirements are. So I always say to people, try and decide what area of law you want to do, what type of firms you want to apply for, and then look within that as to the ones which kind of fit with your skill set and what you can bring. So I was, I was really fortunate in that Irwin Mitchell was was looking for someone more with my skill set, and fortunately didn’t place as much weight on the academics. But yeah so, it was, It was a long slog.  Took me a couple of years. A lot, a lot of rejections. But yeah, eventually I did. And I basically just built up my CV as much as I could in the other areas. Cause I  think you do get some firms who, kind of do on a point system if you like, and if you don’t score is highly on the academics, you can pull up your average by being strong in a lot of other categories. So I basically just tried to do that as much as I possibly could. Just build up as many points on work experience, transferable skills, competencies, all of that kind of stuff. And try and do it that way, which I think is how ultimately got through the process and secured my training contract, all that long time ago.

Rob Hanna: And you’re doing so successfully now in the law. Do you, a lot of questions people get in, so can they see themselves being a partner in the firm? Are they wanting to do that? Are they not wanting to do that? Do you yourself wish, do you want to be a partner in a law firm?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, I absolutely see myself progressing. Yeah, I think I’m very ambitious.  

Both: [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: Yes.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, I don’t think anyone, anyone would say that I’m not. So obviously that is my, my ultimate goal is to progress, is to progress through the ranks, for sure. Yeah.

Rob Hanna: Good. Well, that’s good w’ve got a positive sponsor, because I’m a big believer that people should wish to try and get to the the top and partnership is a good thing. 

Chrissie Wolfe: Mm, yeah, yeah. 

Rob Hanna: And I’m really big and pro on promoting that. Okay, so we need to talk about all your other things outside of the day job. 

Chrissie Wolfe:[Laughter]

Rob Hanna: But my first question is, why is someone who is originally from the London surrounding areas so passionate about all things Birmingham? And why should lawyers think about Birmingham over London as well?

Chrissie Wolfe: Good question. Well, I started off well. I’ve kind of briefly explained how I ended up in Birmingham, and I just kind of, I don’t know whether its by fluke or what, but I just ended up having a really amazing day when I went to visit Birmingham Uni, and I think we kind of developed an affinity for each other on that day, so definitely going through the uni process. I just really got on really well with my lecturers and just thought Birmingham was a great university. Ended up applying for training contracts in both London and Birmingham actually, because I’m  from near London originally.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: So I kind of would have would have gone either way actually. But the role came up in Birmingham and I was pretty happy to stay and I think Birmingham’s just such a great close knit community. I think it’s such a small city in a way, in terms of community. In terms of space, it-its, what? It’s a second city, really, but in terms of community, it’s very, very small. And I really enjoyed training as well at the Irwin Mitchell office in Birmingham because everybody lived really close together, you know, like kind of like being in halls of residence, actually. And yeah, and I just found it very sociable, made friends really quickly, lots of opportunities to join kind of local organisations, local charities. So I’m an ambassador for a charity called Love Brum, which started about five years ago. And basically is a kind of platform charity for local smaller causes which don’t kind of have the marketing budget or, you know, don’t have the resources to generate as much funds, as many funds they need. So I joined that charity and that connected me with so many people.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: So many local businesses, so many local causes. And I got to know a load of people that way, actually. And then I think I kind of fell in love with it, really, after I launched Law and Broader, which is probably what we are about to talk about.

Rob Hanna: Next question! [Laughter]

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so, yeah, so it was 2017. So I started my training contract in 2013, qualified in 2015 and then launched my YouTube channel Law and Broader in 2017.

Rob Hanna: Which if people don’t know, is a hugely successful YouTube channel, so congratulations.  

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter] Thank you!

Rob Hanna: But it’s probably worth for those who are new to it, explaining what it is and what it does.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yes! Of course! Yeah, I’ll kind of explain the backstory. So as I’ve just explained, I had a pretty tumultuous journey getting my training contracts on and I really wanted to feedback really, to other people who were struggling because I know a lot of people are. It’s incredibly competitive. The stats are ridiculous in terms of how many people are applying versus how many training contracts are available and you know, really, someone like me shouldn’t have got through the process. In terms of looking, looking at my, looking at my academics, you’d probably say that given how competitive it is, I was probably one of the ones who shouldn’t, who shouldn’t have got there. And I know there are a lot of people who were in a similar situation to me, who would probably be thinking about quitting and just not bothering.

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: If we’re, if they had my academics or they had issues, various parts of the criteria that they didn’t think that they met. They may just be tempted to think well, it’s so competitive that if I don’t hit one of the criteria, there’s just no point. I might as well just not bother. So I kind of wanted to explain a bit about my journey and how I did it to try and kind of inspire some people who are perhaps struggling, to not give up. But at the same time, I’m realistic. In terms of, and I’m not going to say that you know everybody you know, everybody who wants to get through is going to get through. And you know, If you’ve got really awful A Levels, don’t worry, you’ll definitely get through. You know, it-it’s not, it’s not a case of that. I’m still realistic about how difficult it is to get through the process. But I just wanted to kind of give some advice back to people from what I did that I thought, really helped me. And just to kind of, you know, be be on a level with some people who were struggling, be an outlet for people who were going through that

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: And say, you know what, I did it too, and it is tough and, you know, I’m here! [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: I think you’re excellent, and a positive role model. And I like the fact its called Law and Broader cause yes, she focused on the law, but also you talk about lifestyle as well and lots of things connected. So again, is it worth just sort of shedding a bit more on that in terms of what people could get from that YouTube channel?  

Chrissie Wolfe: Mmm.

Rob Hanna: Because I do think it’s fascinating, really, really worth watching people and people getting involved.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so it’s kind of multi faceted, actually. So I started off by just sort of doing advice about the training contract process really and, then a little bit about my lifestyle as well, because I kind of didn’t want people to be lured into this sense that everybody who’s a lawyer is kind of holed up in the office 24 hours a day and has no life.   

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Yeah.   

Chrissie Wolfe: And I wanted to show that we can have a bit of fun as well. It’s not all being cooped up in-inside your office behind your desk. So I definitely wanted to get that across in the broader side of things as well and just kind of show a bit more personality. And this is what I do in a week to week basis and stuff like that. And then the kind of law stuff has branched out into all kinds of things really. So I do a lot of news updates as well now, some commercial awareness type stuff,  so if there are any major news storiess or major kind of updates, changes, in the law or in the legal market, that I think are useful for people to know about.

Rob Hanna: We’ll be talking about the SQE at some point, don’t worry. 

Chrissie Wolfe: Ooh the SQE. Yeah, so the SQE is one is one of the things which I talk about that quite a lot, actually, because it’s obviously a major change. So yeah, I do a lot of commercial awareness type stuff. I do interviews with people in the industry who I think are influential and can offer something to students. I do stuff about tech. I do a lot updates about technologies because that’s a passion of mine, and I like talking about it, and I think it’s something that you can’t really avoid talking about it, particularly if you’re trying to come through the process now. It’s a big topic and something that you definitely need to be aware of. Erm, I’m trying tothink what else I do?  All sorts of different stuff on there, anything that’s law or loosely related to law is on there from-from week to week. Yeah I  try, I’ll try and get, one uploaded every couple of weeks and they tend to differ between what I’m doing. Yeah I vlogged at the Legal-Ed conference a couple of weeks ago as well, so events and stuff that are relevant, everything goes on there.   

Rob Hanna: Yeah, good. And so what are the future ambitions? With the YouTube channel basically going from a complete standing start, to sort of thousands, tonnes and tonnes of people tuning in, what are the future ambitions you’ve got for Law and Broader?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so it’s kind of branched, it’s branched out from YouTube as well now into events which I really enjoy doing. I’ve done a few events, and I’ve got a few more planned for this year as well, so the YouTube channel is going to continue. My YouTube channel is pretty much subscriber driven, actually, so it goes in the direction that my subscribers want it to because that’s the whole point it’s supposed to be a resource for people who are watching it, so it’s much more beneficial for people tell me what they want to see them, than for me to tell them. So I try and do as many kind of polls and ask for content advice, you know as much as I can, so that I could be sure that I’m catering to what people wanna watch. So that’s kind of naturally evolving, I suppose. And the events, yep I do a series of events through the year. I’ve gotten a couple coming up this year, which I’m really excited about it. So I’ve done a few in Birmingham and I’m branching out into London, for the first time. 

Rob Hanna: Yeah! And there’s a potential collaboration.  

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah!

Rob Hanna: So watch this space!

Chrissie Wolfe: So I’ve got one coming up in April and I’m actually, secretly going international. 

Rob Hanna: Ahhh!

Chrissie Wolfe: As well later in the year, but I’m not gonna say too much about that just yet.

Rob Hanna: Stay tuned!

Chrissie Wolfe: Yes, so you’ll have to stay tuned! Yes, so the event stuff I really enjoy, and that’s primarily for aspiring lawyers and junior lawyers. So it’s a mixture of stuff. It’s not all training contract stuff, it’s, it’s kind of a combination of stuff that I think is important that’s going on the legal market at the moment. A lot about tech, a lot about how the market’s changing, a lot about how what people are looking for in lawyers is changing, what clients are looking for in lawyers is changing. So topical issues basically, and I try and have people who either come along or speak on the panel who are influential in their fields, so.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: So try and get as many people involved as I can. 

Rob Hanna: Yep, good stuff, and we’re definitely gonna talk a lot more about tech, as I know that is an ambition we both share, actually, yeah, but I want to talk more, firstly, about mentoring because you also do a lot of mentoring, but you have some of your own. So I firstly wanted to ask you who were some of your mentors and why have you chosen those particular people?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, I actually have a lot of mentors and I think different different people for different reasons.

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: They’re not all in law. Actually, I’ve got a couple, a couple of really kind of key, key mentors have supported me that are in the legal field. But then also people who are in, who are in business, different sectors, different people for different reasons, definitely. I kind of take inspiration from people who have been very successful in their own careers. I take inspiration from people who were very junior in their careers but have great creativity and great ideas.   

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: You know, I also kind of try and surround myself with people who are you know, perhaps I’m very, I don’t know what the opposite is of risk averse. I, you know. 

Rob Hanna: You’re a risk taker then! [Laughter]

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, exactly! Yeah I’m a go-getter. And I try, try to also surround myself with people who are perhaps a little bit more realistic sometimes.  

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: Just to say, you know what, Chrissie you can’t just go off and do that. You gotta think about this, this and this. So I think it is very important to know your own personality type and sometimes know the weaknesses in your personality, and make sure that you got people around you to kind of manage you in that way. So you’ve got people around you to to build you up and push you forward, and you’ve also got people around you to ground you and give you the real facts of a situation. So, yeah, I’m really lucky in that, I have an absolutely amazing set of mentors all over the globe, actually, yeah not even just, just in England. But people who I’ve kind of sought out from reading their, especially from reading about the mentors who I’ve known personally, but also people who I’ve sought out because I loved what they’ve written and, you know, just ended up just reaching out to them and saying, ‘Hey, I really think we should collaborate. We should talk’. And then it’s gone from their to ending up in a really good mentoring relationship. So, yeah, I have a lot of really strong, strong mentors in my life. Who keep me grounded, which is good. [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: And as a great back-note or note through that, which again people listening in is Chrissie, who people follow her. You know, it’s very much about putting yourself out there if you want mentoring, you know, don’t expect it to come to you, actually put yourself out there and go and get it, right?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah.

Rob Hanna: So, talking more on the mentoring you do then.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yes.

Rob Hanna: You’re involved with the One Million Mentors and you also mentor for the University of Law as well, so do you wanna tell us a bit about your work in mentoring with that?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah! So, I became, I wanted to be a mentoring quite early on, actually. So pretty much as soon as I got my training contract, I enrolled with the University of Law scheme. And I got a mentee, and I’ve been doing that for years and years now. And I’ve had really good mentees every year doing that. And with the One Million Mentor scheme as well. Actually, so One Million Mentors isn’t specifically law, can be law, but it’s also just all kinds of young people who are trying to get into professional careers are also different careers, actually. But generally they try and match people who are vaguely in the same career path. So I’ve got a lot of, I’ve got a reward out of that, and that was another one of the reasons why I started the YouTube channel, actually, because I was really enjoying all the mentoring that I was doing, But just aren’t, weren’t enough hours in the day basically to give any more mentees the time that I thought that they deserved and manage my day job. So I kind of saw YouTube as a bit of an  online mentoring platform as well. And I think the subscribers I do have, I kind of consider them mentees in a way?  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: And I feel like I’ve gone from having, like, five mentees, and now I’ve got, like, 4000 mentees, which is great! And you know, I can do that without actually, you know, taking the physical time. I can, you know, I can sit down. I spend my days doing the videos and I can reach many, many thousands of people rather than just one, which is is great. I still do the 1-2-1 mentoring as well, but I use YouTube as kind of an outlet to mentor many more people than I do face to face.

Rob Hanna: Great. And on that then ,you’re also a Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors.  

Chrissie Wolfe: Yes.

Rob Hanna: So tell us more about that.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so Aspiring Solicitors I came across really early on when I was launching Law and Broader, because I was looking for other stuff that was similar, and looking for other organisations that were also supporting aspiring lawyers who were trying to come through the process and perhaps were, and at a bit of a disadvantage compared to others. And I came across Aspiring Solicitors really early on and got in touch with Chris White and said, you know, is there anything that I can I can do to help any? He let me know about the ambassadors scheme. I’ve actually sat on one, one panel with him as well. We did something at Bristol Uni, which is great, cause I think what he’s doing is brilliant. He was one of the first kind of organisations to really start doing something like that and helping and helping law students who were a bit more disadvantaged to come through the process. So I really admire what what he’s done with the Aspiring Solicitors and, you know, really support them in everything that they do on. That’s a really good resource. If-if you are looking for more help to get through the process and mentoring and events and they offer work experience and things like that, so definitely worthwhile checking out their website as well.

Rob Hanna: Good stuff. And for those of you listening, thinking and there’s more, she does as well? Yes, there is.

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: Chair of the Birmingham Junior Lawyers division. What are you trying to achieve through that and tell us a bit more about that society?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so, there’s in Birmingham, we kind of, have a bit of a split. We’ve got two sort of junior lawyers, divisions if you like. So we’ve got kind of the Birmingham TraineeSolicitor Society, which is basically trainees, and paralegals, actually. And then we’ve got the Birmingham Solicitors Group, which is kind of  newly qualified, basically up to 5 years PQE which and they’re both branches off the Law Society’s Junior Lawyer Division. So I Chair the Birmingham Solicitors Group. Actually, I’ve been Chair for the last couple of years, and I did events before that as well. So I’ve been, been involved for quite some time, actually, and I really enjoy it, its really great. I’ve met so many great people through doing the JLD actually. And  yeah, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of that. It’s brilliant for networking. So we tend to focus more on the social side of things we’ve got BTSS who obviously do the more junior side. We’ve obviously got a Birmingham Law Society as well.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: We tend to kind of be the fun one in the middle. 

Rob Hanna: Nothing wrong with that!

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, where we just get everyone together and, yeah, we do a lot of social type stuff and they’re always really well attended. And we have about seven or eight events throughout the year. Actually, a lot of them a sporting focused, a lot of them, are competitions. But it’s just a really good way of bringing together all the law firms in the community. As I said, it’s such a small community, especially everyone, everyone knows each other. So it’s really good, just, you know, good, good opportunity, really, for everyone to just kind of get together and have a good time. So I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve really enjoyed doing that

Rob Hanna: Good! And you’ve been nominated so for so many awards and won so many things. Which one has most stood out to you and why? And which one are you targeting next?

Chrissie Wolfe: Oh gosh, this is such a hard question, actually, because they’re all so so different. I think when I won Birmingham Professional of the Year, which is the first thing I won. I think that-that, that sticks in my mind because it was kind of the first thing I’d ever won in my life, I think.

Both: [Laughter]

Chrissie Wolfe: I’m not a historic winner, really. So it wasn’t something I expected to win at all. And it was just after I launched Law and Broader, like really soon afterwards. And I think, you know, it was just that does stick in my mind as  just such, i’s in Birmingham. It’s a really big awards ceremony and I’ve been going to it for years and seeing all these really impressive people win and just thought that will never be me in a 1,000,000 years. So, I think when it when it was, it kind of was, yeah, it was kind of a surreal, a surreal moment. So I suppose that was the 1st one. But yes, since that it’s it’s impossible. They’ve all just been so unique in their own, in their own way. I think Solicitor of the Year, mad. In Birmingham because that’s against everybody. You know it’s not a kind of a junior lawyers thing its against all the solicitors Birmingham, so I was kind of amazed by by that, there was some really great people in my category. Woman of the Year again is mad because that was all the business women in Birmingham as well, not just not just a legal one, so that was again something that I never expected to win. And Junior Lawyer of the Year at the Excellence Awards was incredible because that’s again like a na-National Law Society. So ah, yeah. It’s been, it’s been-

Rob Hanna: Again for people listening in. Hearing those A Levels, to all of this. Anything is achievable right?    

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter] Yeah, yeah, I think I’m still kind of in disbelief when I look back at it. To be honest, it’s been just yes, since I launched Law and Broader, its just been back to back things going on, and I’ve just enjoyed every minute of it, really.  

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: And just the support for the legal profession and the Birmingham’s community’s been yeah, immense.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: And I definitely wouldn’t have achieved any of those things if I hadn’t had so much support from both those communities. It has just, just been incredible really. Yeah, I can’t believe it.

Rob Hanna: Good and one question before we get onto tech, cause I know we’re itching both to talk about that. Erm, using this platform, I guess you get a lot of common questions through your YouTube channel or, you know, a lot of the same questions or similar questions. Is there one that you get asked a lot that you perhaps would like to use this opportunity to answer? That, ou know what, guys, this is what I’d recommender that. Is there one question that sort of stands out, you get quite regularly?

Chrissie Wolfe: From, from subscribers or from people? Yeah, erm. I get asked a lot about my A levels. I did a video re, fairly recently. I think it was on A Level results day this year, which sort of explained my story. And off the back of that, and Legal Cheek actually ran that as a story. And off the back of that, probably at least three or four times a week, I get an inbox to say, ‘I watch your video. Absolutely love it. I’ve got terrible A Levels. You know, what’s your kind of advice, to me?” It’s a difficult question to answer, because everybody’s situation is so unique. There’s not one piece of generic advice that I would give to someone with, you know, poor academics or, you know, academics that they wish were better, to kind of say this is the secret to getting around it, because everybody wants different things. 

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: I was very focused on what I wanted to achieve, I therefore kind of found ways to get there. So I think you need to have a clear goal as to what you want to achieve and then you can work out how to get there. But I think it’s important to know, to really have a good reason for wanting to get into law. What’s your passion? You know, not just it’s a stable career and it is going to pay me well. 

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: Because that novelty wears off real quick. I’ll tell you that.

Both: [Laughter]  

Rob Hanna: We should point out we’re recording after a long day in court for you today. 

Chrissie Wolfe: Oh, I literally just walked out of court. So, yeah, I can tell you that you that the novelty wears off quickly, so you’ve gotta have a real passion for what you do. And I think that’s the first question everybody should be able to answer before they even start on their journey is what do they want to do this for? What’s your reason and have a good reason for that. And then you can almost work from that point to say right, well, this is why I love the law, this is why I want to do it. And then what area of law, what type of firm you know is best gonna help me, to achieve that goal and to realise that passion that I have for the law. And yeah, so there isn’t kind of one answer. Yeah, I got a lot of people just saying, ‘well, what’s your advice to me?’ Well, you know, I’ve got to ask you 10 questions, you know, and then by the time I’ve asked you those 10 questions, you should know the answer sort of thing. So it’s hard to give generic advice, but I I do my best.

Rob Hanna: Good for you. Well, come on, then. Legal tech.  

Chrissie Wolfe: [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: You are an avid supporter of all things legal tech, innovation, proud pioneer of legal-ed tech. Explain to us and tell us more about that.

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, so I’m a big fan of legal tech. I kind of stumbled across legal tech a couple of years ago, actually, because I do a lot of reading. I read an absurd amount, actually. I usually spend at least the first 45 minutes of my day reading articles on LinkedIn and Twitter and and trying to, you know, understand what’s going on in the legal market because I’m really interested. And that’s why I kind of report on it as well, on LAB. So, yeah, I kind of came across it, as kind of becoming more and more prevalent in articles that I was reading on LinkedIn and people who I really admired and respected were talking a lot about technology and how this was impacting the profession.  I read a book by Richard Suskind, which I think every lawyer should read, called  ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’, which talks about how important technology is going to be in the future. And I think it was probably that book, actually, that really got me into it and really made me realise how important technology was gonna be to the future, of the legal profession. And from that point onwards, I just started reading more andmore about it, going to more and more events and  talking more and more about it on social media. I think getting involved in forums, going to lots of events. I’ve been to Legal Geek the last few years, which I think is amazing. You get so much information from there and meet so many great people. I’ve met a couple of my mentors actually through Legal Geek.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: Which is, which is brilliant. And yeah, so, I’ve always been in the last couple of years I’ve just seen more and more engaged with what’s going on in the legal tech scene. And how on how we can kind of impart this onto junior lawyers and aspiring lawyers, I think, because it’s difficult when you’re an aspiring lawyer, if you’re not in the market, if you’re notin the industry practising, it’s very difficult to understand how it applies. I think there’s a huge kind of gap in knowledge between you being a law student in university and you being a lawyer in practise and no amount of reading can really close that gap, I think. You’ve kind, I sort of try and be a conduit for that to try and kind of match the two together in some kind of vaguely relatable way. So I try and break technology down into, into what I think aspiring lawyers need to know about it because there’s a lot of hype around legal tech. I think as well a huge amount of hype is trying to make out that all lawyer’s need to code and suddenly we all need to be technologists, which I don’t believe at all. I think there’s a lot, there’s a lot of synergy between the two, but I still believe that lawyers should be lawyer, and technologists should be technologists. So I I think from the point of view of students, I get so many students who are, who message me and say, ‘shall I go on this coding course? And should I learn to programme this and that?’ and I just think no.

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] No. Just do you. 

Chrissie Wolfe: But this is kind of what the media would have you believe. I think if if you kind of read too much into its really hard, I think, to separate as a student what you need to know and what you don’t need to know.

Rob Hanna: So, putting you on the spot then, what can law firms be doing to embrace more  legal tech then, what do you think you would like to be seeing more as sort of standard? Because some law firms are ahead of others, right, in terms of what they’re doing for legal tech, but what would you like to see as a sort of standard?

Chrissie Wolfe: Well, I mean, I’m a big believer in there kind of isn’t one right answer for everyone. I think that the technology that you use should be entirely relevant to your clients in your business. So I don’t necessarily think there’s one piece of tech that everyone should be using me. I think there should be a general, I think all law firms should generally be working towards trying to be more efficient and trying to provide better value for money for their clients. That should always be at the heart of the business model, I think. But also sort of being aware of what tech your clients are using and what your clients are doing and what their, I think, what what their challenges are. And I think you’ve got to be aware you’ve got to be on the same level as your client. So if you’ve got clients who are, who are kind of talking about their cloud-based solutions and XY and you need to be able to understand what that is and advise them.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: So I think everybody is different. I don’t think a high street firm should be doing the same thing, as you know, a Magic Circle firm. I don’t think there necessarily should be a standard approach, but I think as a base line, because you get a lot of firms who say, ‘Oh, we can’t innovate and we can’t, you know, we can’t utilise legal tech because we just haven’t got the same budget, as everyone else. We have got same budget asthese big firms, you know, we can’t carve out money from all these areas just to start, you know, innovating. We just don’t have that.’ And I think there’s a lot of really basic things that you can do to improve your efficiency. I think I read a stat, somewhere I can’t remember the exact percentage. But, you know, the average, the average lawyer can use something like 20% of the facilities of Microsoft office. 

Rob Hanna: Wow.

Chrissie Wolfe: And they don’t know how to use 80% of them. And actually, if you can teach your, you can teach your staff how to use the other 80% you’re gonna maximise efficiency hugely without having spent any money at all, you might spend money on getting a trainer in to train them for an hour. But you haven’t actually shelled out anything more on your tech budget and you’ve massively, you’ve massively increased how efficient your business is. So I think there are small things that you, can do to  massively improve, to massively improve that without actually shelling out a lot of cash. And I think and equally there other pieces of technology. You know, there are case management systems which don’t cost a huge amount to run per month. I mean, there are some systems which do, you know, the more complex ones, like artificial intelligence, obviously, but I don’t think they’re suitable for every business. I think a lot of businesses are rallying around trying to kind of make AI fit into their business somehow and pay for it.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: And I think you should only ever be using technology to solve an existing problem. You should be looking at your business and looking at where you think there need to be improvements and then finding the tech to fit, to fit in with that rather than just saying, right all the techs out there, we need to implement all this tech and find something for it to do. I think that I think a lot of, a lot because of the kind of innovation hype, if you like, I do think a lot of firms that are doing that and kind of looking at that the wrong way around. So you might find that some firms don’t need to innovate as much as others because they’re already really efficient.

Rob Hanna: Yeah. Fair enough. And I think we chatted as well before we came on air as well about the legal profession, that it’s changing. I know you make the point about lawyers should be lawyers and technologists should be technologists and I get that. But what do you think you would say to legal professionals in terms of future options that might be out there for lawyers in terms of all of this new tech and roles emerging, what would you say or offer your insight into that?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, I mean again, I think it depends what your goals are and what you want to do. And I think if you’re if you have got your heart set on being a lawyer in a Magic, in a  Magic Circle firm or in a top firm and working away up to partner, then I think you still need to focus your skillset on being an expert lawyer. If you want to progress your career as a lawyer, then you’re gonna progress by developing your expertise in your field. However, I think the more flexible you are and the more adaptable you are. And the more kind of open to new technology arising, the better. Because I think that lawyers who are open to innovation are going to do a lot better than lawyers who don’t, effectively. But I don’t think you necessarily need to stray into the realms of understanding how all of the technology works. I don’t think you need to know how to code. I don’t think you know how to write the programmes, how to fix the programmes.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: We don’t even necessarily need to know exactly what type of technology fits fits the problem necessary. I think you just need to be aware of it and you need to be open to it and I think in especially in a lot of firms, I think I think the best way for what is really collaboration. I think lawyers working with technologists is a much better solution than lawyers becoming technologists. I think having multi-disciplinary teams and especially kind of interdisciplinary management boards, I think is really the key, actually, to running a successful business is having a lot of different people with lots of different skillsets all working together.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah. 

Chrissie Wolfe: But yeah, I mean, there are now I think legal tech is kind of a whole industry in itself. I mean, 10 years ago, probably even 5 or 6 years ago, wasn’t really a job role that was available. And now I know loads of students who are kind of who have gone into working for legal tech companies actually, as a kind of starting point, with the aim of potentially qualifying later. But because they’ve got that skillset and that’s such an attractive skillset to have now, is understanding technology that I think that’s often a really good route to go at least get some work experience. Working for a legal tech provider is a really good idea, because it would look great on your CV because all law firms see technology, and go, ‘Yes! She could help us with our technology!’  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: So it’s a really attractive asset, I think to have had some experience in some facet of technology, if you can get it for sure.

Rob Hanna: And that’s really interesting, so I was just gonna ask you in the next question, in terms of now we are in 2020, this brand new decade. What do you think you’re going to be some of the biggest changes over this current decade, then to the legal sector? What do you think, you’re going to see, you like you say, legal tech was kind of not really around and now is well and truly slap bang in our faces. What do you think this next decade’s got for the legal sector?

Chrissie Wolfe: Well, I think we’ve kind of had to the tech boom, if you like. We’ve had the technology really taking off in itself, and I think what you’re going to get now is sort of almost the aftermath of that, which is businesses changing their business models, perhaps new style businesses opening up, who were going to take advantage of how that technology can help them. And also it’s all in conjunction with how our regulation has recently changed and the different and the different qualification process now. It seems to be a load of changes that are all coming together at a really critical time, which I think is going to make a huge difference to how the landscape looks in 5 or 10 years, and we’ve got the Big Four as well who are now coming in to practise, you know, offering legal services. I think there’s gonna be a huge change, actually, in just how the landscape looks generally. I think it’s gonna, there’s gonna be a lot of different types of legal services provider. I don’t think it’s, I think, historically you’v always thought, oh you need lawyer, go to a law firm. And I think that’s going to be different in the future.

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: I think there’s going to be very different ways of finding lawyers, very different ways of practising law. And I think you know, consumers, consumers are kind of king at the moment actually.  

Rob Hanna: Or Queen! [Laughter]

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah, yeah, we’ll be PC about it. Yeah, so I think it’s a consumer’s market, really, for legal out there at the moment. There’s so much competition and there’s so many different ways of getting your legal services, and different ways of having those services delivered. I think it’s going to be constantly evolving and you’re constantly gonna have new types of business popping up new types of lawyer popping up. You know, you’ve already got you know, all of these kind of different types of app and legal tech that, you know, matching clients with lawyers that, you know, I just think that something just wouldn’t have existed years ago.  

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: You never would have, you never would have got, you know, your client’s putting your problem on an app and then it being matched to a lawyer. It’s just an alien concept. But I think you are going to get that and I really think that it’s gonna be dictated really in it in the future, by what consumers want. And that’s how it’s gonna be shaped, I think.

Rob Hanna: Yeah, well said. And look, I know it’s a hotly discussed and debated topic. So in a word, yes or no? SQE, yes or no?  

Chrissie Wolfe: Ooooh. Ah. Tough. I don’t think you can answer yes or no! Mmm.

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Ok you can put a maybe.

Chrissie Wolfe: If you could see me squirming off my seat. It depends what day of the week you ask me and then what’s come out the day before. I think in concept, yes. 

Rob Hanna: Mhmm.

Chrissie Wolfe: In practise, I’m not sure. Is probably the most diplomatic way that I can put it, I think. Because I really like the idea of the SQE, putting the power back with the graduate, taking away the training contract bottleneck and allowing people to qualify in different ways, different types of establishment and kind of making it about your experience level, I think is, is a great idea. I think it’s gonna be great for accessibility, great for diversity. And it’s going to get a lot more people into law, than potentially are able to be in law at the moment. So I think, tick for that. I really like the thought process behind it. How’s it going to be implemented? Difficult. It’s it’s very difficult, I think, to know how this is gonna pan out in practise because no one’s really giving any,  nothing, no ones really giving anything away about how they’re gonna tackle this. I mean, you’ve got some mean you’ve got, like Deloitte who’ve already jumped straight in –

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: With their three year SQE training, contract taking. You know, taking advantage of it straight away. But most law firms are reserving their position to put it legally as we would say – 

Rob Hanna: [Laughter] Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: Have not really given much away about how they’re going to recruit, whether they’re going to recruit differently. And my, my feeling and from what I do know from from a lot of firms is that they’re probably going to recruit in much the same way, actually, because you know, why would they do any differently? Its served them well so far. So I think in terms of if your dream is to work in a law firm, then I think you’re going to face a very similar landscape to how it is now, actually.  I still think they’re going to probably recruit a couple of years in advance. They’re gonna put you through a similar process to the training contract, perhaps might put you through a prep course alongside SQE 1, SQE 2, and then you’ll be qualified at the end of it, which is very similar to how it is now. I think where the SQE really comes into its own, actually, is if you kind of want to go an alternative way.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: I think it opens up new opportunities to go into different types of legal business, and I think that’s where people are going to find. The SQE is not necessarily intended to make it easier to, to, you know, to get into a law firm. It might, I don’t think its gonna make it easier at all actually. I mean, I think it’s, the exam is going to be super tough as well. It’s not kind of a get out of jail free card, you know? 

Rob Hanna: Yeah.

Chrissie Wolfe: ‘Yay, I don’t need a training contract anymore’. Well, you’ve still got to sit an 11 hour exam.

Both: [Laughter]

Chrissie Wolfe: So, and that’s just SQE 1. We know a little bit, more, about SQE 1t han we did a few months ago, so we know it’s gonna be multiple choice. We know it’s gonna be over two days, 11 hour exam, and it’s pretty gruelling.

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: So it is by no means kind of an easy option, I don’t think. But it’s just it’s just different. And it’s much more similar now to the New York bar, I think very similar to how the qualification process is in, in the US, so there’s still a lot of unknowns, I think. And it’s really hard and I mean, probably my second biggest question that I get asked is ‘I was planning to do the GDL next year and now I don’t know because the SQE is coming in. What should I do?’ And I just start tearing my hair out because it’s a really hard question to answer, really, really hard because we just don’t know. The planned implementation day is 2021. They say that it needs to be 2021 to time with the solicitor apprenticeship exams because they need an endpoint exam. So by all accounts, it looks like it is going to be 2021. Eually, that’s not, absolutely set in stone. I wouldn’t want to change somebody’s career plans, you know, on that basis, I would feel very conscious of doing that. But similarly telling someone to do the GDL which is effectively gonna be a dead course. You know, it’s not a course that’s going to exist. You know, there’s no need to do a law degree once the SQE comes in, in theory. And it costs a lot of money. So I’m also hesitant to say, yeah, sure spend, you know, 15 grand doing the GDL which you know which you’re not gonna need ostensibly if you believe what-what’s going on with the SQE, so very difficult question to answer at this stage.

Rob Hanna: Well, you managed to answer it with more than yes and no, so that was quite good. [Laughter] You got it in there.

Chrissie Wolfe: Were you trying to cut me off at yes or no? You should know better! You know what my views are on the SQE.  Really difficult! I think I am, you know, basically pro.  

Rob Hanna: Yep.

Chrissie Wolfe: I just hope that it’s executed in a way that it actually executes what it’s intended to do in principle, that’s, and if it does, that will be really happy with it.

Rob Hanna: Good. Well said. And look, to finish up before we kind of round off. We both share a love for travel. I know you’ve got a sort of passion for New York, the Middle East. So for downtime, You know, if Chrissie Wolfe gets downtime, what do you like to do? Where do you like to go?

Chrissie Wolfe: Oh, yeah. You know, I’m a fan of the Middle East. I will jet off to  Dubai as often as I possibly can. Yeah, really enjoy just a few days here, and there, actually just a long weekend. I did used to work in Ibiza, in my youth for several years. So I often try and get there at least once a year to go and have a bit of time out there, bit of sunshine. US, I try and go again as much as I can, but usually ends up being every two or three years, I do have some family over there as well as my my dad’s from the US. So like to  get the US in there as well. So yeah, these are probably my my top destinations. I would like to travel a bit more like a bit more of Europe. I’ve done a lot of the rest of the world, funnily enough, but not a huge amount in Europe. So I’d like to do some city breaks or something. Maybe that’s my my plan when I ever get, um, some downtime which is rare. [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: Which is rare! Well, listen, Chrissie from my side, Thanks a 1,000,000. It’s been a real pleasure having you on, I’m sure your feature again at some point on the Legally Speaking Podcast. But I’d like to wish you all your future endeavours all the very best. Thank you. If people want to get in touch with you, I’ll just leave you to give a final shout out, how they can follow you and kind of get in touch. What are all the  main things, we’ll put it all in the writing as we do the follow up, but how can people get in touch?

Chrissie Wolfe: Yeah so all of the social media platforms, basically. So yeah, LinkedIn: Chrissie Wolfe. YouTube, obviously Law and Broader and Twitter and Instagram, I’m on @CWolfe underscore LAB, most of its academic but instagrams a bit of fashion as well, i you’re into that, so.

Rob Hanna: I could probably take some tips off that! [Laughter] And on that note, over and out!

Chrissie Wolfe: Thank you.

Enjoy the Podcast?

You may also tune in on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Give us a follow on X, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and Youtube.

Finally, support us with BuyMeACoffee.

🎙 Don’t forget to join our Legally Speaking Club Community where we connect with like-minded people, share resources, and continue the conversation from this episode.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter.

Sponsored by Clio – the #1 legal software for clients, cases, billing and more!



Disclaimer: All episodes are recorded at certain moments in time and reflect those moments only.


👇 Wish To Support Us? 👇

Buy Me a Coffee

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts