I like the effect, but is the raw conversion the time for this? I usually done the USM local contrast technique as one of the last steps in my workflow.
I don't know the technical reasons but Michael always used his Local Contrast Enhancement early in his workflow. Probably does not make a great deal of difference.
As for Lightroom being a raw converter - it certainly is but perhaps not in the traditional sense. A raw converter was something you used to convert your raw files out of your camera to something useable like a tiff or jpeg. I think of Lightroom as more of a 'Raw Workflow Tool'. I think the idea is that you can do 'everything' you need to do in Lightroom on a majority of photos without resorting to another application. It's definately getiing there with 1.1.
Lastly 'Clarity' is on a slider which shows you pretty good real time results (USM is a bit more fiddly)