Name: Debbie Thoren-Peden
Firm Name: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP
Practice Area: Business (Corporate & Securities) - A financial
services, privacy, regulatory and banking attorney,
Ms. Thoren-Peden is co-leader of Pillsbury's Consumer & Retail
Industry team and co-chair of the firm's Attorney Development
Favorite Rainmaking tip:
Become known in the legal and business community as an
"expert" in an area through giving speeches and writing
articles. Also, be a perfectionist in your work product,
but give practical advice.
Best career advice:
There is no substitute for hard work and being someone
upon whom the client can rely--for both big projects
and small projects. Recognize that your job is to
help the general counsel and the company meet their
goals and provide services and goods to their customers.
Never, bad mouth people, even counsel on the other side
of a deal, regardless of what you may think of them.
Be a good listener, but do not pass on gossip.
Percentage of time devoted to marketing:
20% -- Marketing activities include attending/speaking at
tradeshows and conferences, writing articles as well as
one-on-one client entertainment.
Other than being the mother of four kids, with a terrific
husband (which just means I am terribly lucky), I was
very pleased to be given the Robert Frandzel Award for
Superior and Noteworthy Outside Counsel by the California
Bankers Association. Also, I am proud anytime a client of
mine successfully launches a new product or service where
I was one of the team who helped to get it launched.
Knowing what you know now, if you were starting out as a
lawyer today, what would you do differently?
I would start doing business development as soon as I
started the practice of law.
Tell me about one rainmaking strategy or tactic that you
initially thought would fail, but it was a great success.
Why was it successful?
I have been surprised by the amount of work that has come
from articles that I have written. Clients have contacted
me for the first time after they have read something I have
written, or after they have "Googled" me. It is terrific
when that happens, but it is always a bit of a surprise when
there is a general counsel of a major corporation on the line
saying that he or she might want to hire me to assist on a
matter, and they tell me that they found me via a Google search.
If you were mentoring a young woman lawyer, what advice
would you give her regarding rainmaking?
Find a means of doing business development that you are
comfortable with and go and do it. DO NOT WAIT to have
someone hand you something on a platter--it likely won't
happen. You really need to get out in the community, get
to know people, participate on committees, and get known
in order to get work. If you don't like to speak, then
write articles. If you don't want to go to large functions
and mingle with people you don't know, then get involved
with associations you care about, and then work on their
committees and get known as someone who is capable and
can get things done.
Would you say you ever had a mentor that made a genuine
difference in how your career turned out?
If yes, please describe.
Yes. I am lucky enough to have had a couple of mentors
who have made a huge difference on my career. One is my
partner here at Pillsbury, Rod Peck. When I started
working with Rod I had just had my second child, and my
deal with the firm was that I could leave by 4:30 to pick
up my kids from day care by 5:30. I can recall being on
conference calls with numerous people and having Rod
intercede in the conversation at about 4:25 to say that
we would need to wrap up my portion so that I could get home.
I cannot tell you how much it meant (and still means)
to me that Rod, other partners and associates, and
the Firm overall have always been very protective
and supportive of my spending time with my family,
and helping me to be able to attend various school
and other functions my kids have during the year.
It is only through having such support at my firm
that I can balance the competing demands of my career
and my family.
Think about when you started out as a lawyer. Now think
about the new female lawyers just starting out. What is
different now compared to when you started?
There were more barriers to advancement for women when I started in
practice, in 1982. I agree with the new attorneys, both male and
female, who believe that you should never give up your personal life
for being an attorney--it is really a question of balance. In the case
of working parents, that really means that you have little (if any)
personal time-- but that is the tradeoff for having a terrific family.
That said, I am the last person to ask about "hot" restaurants or
How do you achieve work/life balance with four kids, a husband who is
a co-chair of a department at another major firm, and a thriving
My husband and I split the responsibilities equally and my priorities
are very clear: my family comes first. That affects business
development activities, business functions and everything else. For
example, when I give a speech back East, I usually do a turnaround
trip, and take less 24 hours to do so in order to get back to the
family as quickly as I can.
List words that best describe you:
Determined, focused, pragmatic and very busy.