4 Lessons for Lawyers, From the Life of David Bowie

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 11, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you're a fan of rock and roll -- and aren't we all? -- you've obviously heard the news by now. David Bowie, the musical icon, died of cancer on Sunday, just a few days after his 69th birthday and the release of his 27th album.

But Bowie's career should be more than just the music on your stereo. There are lessons to be learned there, even for those of us who chose the glamorous world of law over glam rock. Here are four lessons lawyers can take from the life of David Bowie -- and don't worry, this isn't "five ways to tell if your billing scheme is a Labyrinth."

1. Develop Your Personas

Bowie changed personas like the rest of us change socks. For each moment of his career he invented a new public face, from gender-bending Ziggy Stardust, to the Thin White Duke, to Major Tom. Flavorwire counts 12 "Ages of David Bowie," each with their own distinct personality.

Follow Bowie's lead. Like less-sexy rock stars, attorneys also must play many different roles throughout their career, often simultaneously: litigator, deal maker, schmoozer, conciliator, etc. Develop a complete sense of who you are in each role you play.

2. Embrace Change and Don't Be Afraid of Experimentation

Bowie's personas were hardly the goal, however. They were simply a reflection of the changes he went through while challenging himself and the public to try something a little out of the norm. That ability to embrace change helped keep Bowie relevant for decades.

If you find yourself doing the same thing day in and day out, year after year, you're not doing yourself or your work justice. While legal trends don't shift as quickly as the Billboard charts, legal practice does evolve and you should be part of that evolution.

3. Find a Good Partner

No one can do it alone. Not you; not Bowie. Throughout his career, some of Bowie's greatest works and transformations were the result of his partnership with other talented artists. His appreciation of artifice and theatricality started after he befriended a mime. (It's true.) His relationship with Iggy Pop gave us both artists' masterful Berlin years. Even his last album, "Blackstar," was a collaboration.

Lawyers, too, need good partners, whether it's your literal law partners, staff, associates, or mentor, so find the best people you can and hope for a hit.

4. Face Paint Isn't For Everyone

Only Bowie looks good as Ziggy Stardust, so leave the theatrics to the stars and when it comes to making an impression, let your work speak for you.

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