2019 LMASW Region Conference Recap: The Secret Sauce — Developing Recipes for Powerful Storytelling That Will Enhance Your Content and Drive Differentiation, Brand Identity and New Business Opportunities.

LMA Southwest chats with 2019 LMA Southwest Region Conference presenters Brian Dare, Marny Lifshen and Jennifer Dezso to discuss their presentation, "The Secret Sauce — Developing Recipes for Powerful Storytelling That Will Enhance Your Content and Drive Differentiation, Brand Identity and New Business Opportunities"

What inspired you to speak on this topic?

The topic is something all three of us felt would be of interest to this audience. Building trust through authentic conversations is a key differentiator for law firms, especially given how much information is available to buyers of legal services and how much competition there is to be one of the firms selected. While storytelling is not a new strategy for business development, it can be challenging to use when pitching legal services because traditional pitches tend to focus on credentials and capabilities. We felt that our different perspectives on storytelling would resonate well.     

What are the top three things you hope the attendees took from your presentation?

Stories are an effective way to bring information to life and better engage the person who is digesting the information; especially the types of information we typically see in the legal world which can be very technical and dense. Our goal was to provide the audience with the tools to identify, develop and deliver strong stories. We used the theme of “Anyone Can Cook!” from the Disney movie Ratatouille to help illustrate that everyone in legal marketing can contribute to storytelling regardless of their role in the firm. If we had to rank the top takeaways, they would likely be:

  1. Stories are extension of your brand and culture, so alignment is important,
  2. Story structure is critical, so using a process for building stories will help legal marketers more easily develop them, and
  3. matching up the story with the right delivery vehicle is almost as important as the story itself.

During your presentation you provided us with a secret recipe card that we can reference when developing a powerful story with a clear and digestible message. Do you have any tips on coaching an attorney who wants to tell five stories in one in fear of missing something?

This is why a recipe card was developed. There are going to be different stories that appeal to different audiences based on their needs and interests. Not all prospects have the same appetite. Work with them on a multi-point outreach plan on how to get each of their stories to a client using different avenues (a blog post they can send to their clients, a client meeting, etc.). As a marketer, you may need to do a little heavy lifting on creating the plan for the attorney to execute. A single story executed well is better than a laundry list of stories that may not relate to the opportunity at hand.

What is one thing you didn’t share during your presentation that everyone should know about this topic?

This takes practice. Rehearse, role-play, test stories to determine what resonates best. You don’t become a great storyteller overnight and you want to make sure when you start, you have someone who can help provide feedback to sharpen the message. We frequently try to say too much and an editor (both written and verbal) is priceless. It is also important to consider how the story will be delivered, because the medium used should influence the style, length and details of the story.

What didn’t we ask that you wish we did? Or, what do you wish an attendee asked during your presentation that wasn’t asked?

Storytelling is a collaborative process, which is why we felt it was important to have a table exercise focused on breaking down a story and emphasizing aspects that best fit with the delivery vehicles. It’s also an effective strategy for cross-selling services because a story is far more memorable than capabilities information alone. I don’t recall any questions about how to use the storytelling strategy as a means of helping lawyers introduce new services to existing relationships, but we could have spent another hour on that aspect alone.


Brian Dare is the US Business Development Director for Dentons, the world’s largest law firm.  Brian leads a team that works with law firm leaders, practice groups, industry teams, and individual attorneys to help drive revenue growth and client engagement.

Prior to joining Dentons, Brian served as Managing Director of Rain Creek Business Development, where he provide management and business development consulting services for both lawyers and professional staff. Prior to launching Rain Creek Business Development, Brian held marketing and business development leadership roles in both international and regional law firms for more than 20 years. Throughout his career, he has been involved in various facets of business development, marketing, media relations, communications, administration, management, mentoring/staff development, and operations.

Jennifer Dezso is the Vice President of Acritas US, a research consultancy helping organizations build business by navigating changing market dynamics and client demands.

Acritas’ data-driven approach defines how clients acquire, manage, and evaluate their professional services providers.  Jennifer draws on this research and her 15 years of experience to develop high-impact client feedback programs, train professionals in client acquisition and growth, and deliver strategic consulting to organizations looking to improve performance and develop more business.

Marny Lifshen is an author, speaker and nationally-recognized expert on strategic networking, communication and personal branding. She works with businesses and executives to help them develop brand awareness and credibility with audiences. Marny has more than 25 years of experience as a marketing communications consultant, author and speaker.

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