Why You Should Celebrate Your Birthday in Law School

Why You Should Celebrate Your Birthday in Law SchoolThis week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about why celebrating life events is important – even if you’re busy in law school!

My birthday falls at the end of April—smack in the middle of finals season. My first year of law school, as my birthday approached, I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to take time out of studying to help me celebrate my birthday Understandably, especially that first year, all my classmates were thinking of their finals. Friends, family, and any other personal matters just weren’t a priority.

Not to be deterred, I decided to go ahead and celebrate on my own. My traditional birthday dessert has always been chocolate mousse cake, so I baked myself a dozen chocolate mousse cupcakes to enjoy while I studied. I set the finished cupcakes on a plate in the kitchen in my third floor Boston apartment and went back to my room to study. I planned to reward myself with a cupcake after getting through my civil procedure outline.

When I went back to the kitchen a few hours later, I realized I hadn’t been the only one interested in my cupcakes. Tiny little nibbles were missing from every single cupcake on my plate. A little mouse came to my party. All my birthday cupcakes were inedible.

It may seem like the worst birthday, ever, but I actually think of that birthday as one of the funniest ones I’ve ever had. More importantly, I am proud of myself for trying to celebrate. Here’s why it’s important to continue to celebrate life’s milestones even while in law school and studying for finals.

Avoid Burnout

It is impossible to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (or anywhere close to that) and still enjoy what you do. I could have chosen to work right through my birthday and not even attempt to make or buy myself anything to enjoy the day.

What would that have accomplished? How much extra study time would I really have gained? An hour? But, I can almost guarantee that by the time I finished studying and taking all my final exams, I would have felt disappointed that my birthday was a nonevent, and I would have resented that (just a little).

While I was still in college, I served as the president of my school’s Prelaw Society. My club assembled a panel of law school graduates to discuss all things law school. One of the panelists was a nontraditional student who had a young daughter when she went to law school. The panelist became emotional explaining that if she had to do law school all over again, she would have focused a little less on studies. She thought she was being a good role model for her daughter, but it turns out, her young daughter developed a bias against anything lawyer-related, because she said being a lawyer “took my mommy away from me.”

It was heartbreaking to hear those words. I didn’t even understand the full impact of what she was saying at the time. I was twenty years old and didn’t have any children, but I understood that the panelist was cautioning would-be lawyers to find balance and not forget their loved ones while in law school.

Whether it’s celebrating your own birthday or someone else’s or some other milestone, make the time. Plan your study schedule accordingly. Don’t wait until the last minute to cram for exams so that you need that extra hour. Instead, make sure you have a little time to spare. Go get a beer or a glass of wine. Buy a slice of cake or a cannoli or an ice cream cone.

You will actually appreciate your studies more for taking the break.

Enjoy The Journey

Law school in itself is a time that should be enjoyed. Some of the absolute best times I ever had were during my law school career. I went to law school in Boston, which provided ample opportunities for fun things to do. I planned ahead and spent a Saturday around Halloween every year exploring Salem, Massachusetts with friends. We drove down to Newport, Rhode Island to see the mansions. I went to Red Sox games, Boston Bruins games, concerts, and tailgates for the Boston Marathon.

I ate at the most incredible restaurants and had some of the most memorable meals of my life to this date.

I walked the Freedom Trail from start to finish. I read a book at my leisure in the Public Gardens.

These things are all part of the law school experience. Studying nonstop doesn’t make you a good law student. It doesn’t make you a good lawyer, either.

When you graduate, you will have to learn how to balance your career with family and friends, life’s milestones and celebrations, tragedies and heartbreaks.

Learn to find that balance now while you’re in school. It will make your life a lot easier, and definitely more enjoyable when you enter your career.


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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