This book review of “How to become the firm of choice” on strategy development in PSFs appeared in Professional Marketing magazine in the September 2017 edition.

This book tells a story. In the form of a case study. It joins a mid-sized (21 partner) law firm on its two year journey to develop and implement a strategy as a new managing partner takes over. It takes us through partner workshops that are inspired by insights from another law firm and facilitated by an external consultant. The aim is to become the firm of choice.

The authors are from accountancy firms and consultancies with strong links to Harvard Business School. They draw on research from 250 firms on what successful firms do.

There’s much to commend the book – it guides managing partners as they attempt to develop a strategy in their firms. It provides instructions for running an effective retreat. It stresses the need to focus on core issues which is the hallmark of a great strategy.

It provides marketing/BD directors with an approach and tricks of the trade from an experienced consultant. There are good insights into facilitation and consultancy skills. It contains the questions that all law firms should ask themselves.

The fictitious firm works in five teams (markets, clients, people, financial and underpinning beliefs) to identify the critical issues and questions – and proposed solutions. Naturally, these topics are inter-related. Whilst culture and change management are constantly mentioned, there’s little information on how this is achieved. But there is a good best practice learning model addressing partner roles. I liked that the authors grasped the nettle on the question of “What do we do with partners who don’t want to join us?”

On the downside, whilst I was delighted that there was a strong focus on market segmentation and clients, I was disappointed that the suggested approach was so inward (practice areas). And as a strategy specialist, I felt that the analyses and options were rather inward and limited. While increasing competition is acknowledged, there’s little attempt to encourage firms to think about significant market disruption or the need for innovation. There’s a danger that all firms could end up with a similar efficiency strategy if they follow the example.

It’s obviously American which may irritate some readers in Europe and Australia where generally law firm strategic development is more advanced. And larger firms may find it basic bearing in mind the complexity of their organisations. And there is some repetition – with the key slides, questions and diagrams reproduced for ease of reference at the end.

But it’s a quick read and I am sure that most readers would gain some comfort from it – not least reassurance that they are doing the right things already.