It's easy to overlook just how powerful the RAW processing engine can be. It's also pretty easy just throw an image into Photoshop and deal with it there, but RAW is where all the information is - and a dynamic RAW file is the most important aspect of developing your image. You will never have more information to work with than what is in your RAW, so it is important to draw every bit of tone out of it that you can - especially when it comes to maximizing the tonal range in the shadows and the highlights.
Traditional contrast stretches out the tonal range evenly over the entire image - usually resulting in a little dynamic range in the shadows and highlights.
Working in black and white, this becomes solely an exercise in tonality. We start with pulling our absolute white and absolute black parts of the image to their respective places using the white and black sliders. Then we bring down the highlights and bring up the shadows sliders to recover detail we may not have. Exposure, contrast and clarity are tweaked. Then finally, the black and white mix for any last adjustments.
Keep in mind that this is only ONE way to process an image, but it is a great way to pull as much information from your RAW as possible.