Meet The Rainmaker - Debbie Thoren-Peden
by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
Presented by the Women Rainmakers
March 2007
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 Committee .
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.
Proudest accomplishment:
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 recent movies...
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 practice?
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.
Interview by Rachelle J. Canter, Ph.D.
LPM Women Rainmakers is a national forum enabling women to network and develop business opportunities. By understanding how to develop business, women can exert greater control over their careers and integrate their personal lives successfully with the practice of law. For more information on LPM Women Rainmakers, visit .
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