A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 12, 2013
“Scare you to death, work you to death, then bore you to death” (law school’s three years)

Law school normally lasts for three years, but some have argued that the third year is not necessary. An old law school saying is that they “scare you to death” in the first year, “work you to death” in the second year, and “bore you to death” in the third year.

The saying probably originated at Harvard Law School. A Harvard Law graduate wrote to Life magazine in 1937:

“If I may add a descriptive saying that sums up the three years at Harvard Law, it is: ‘In the first year, they worry you to death; in the second year, they work you to death; and in the third year, they bore you to death.’”

The popular version with “scare you to death” (instead of “worry you to death") was cited in print in 1952.


Google Books
22 November 1937, Life magazine, “Letters to the Editors,” pg. 8, col. 2:
If I may add a descriptive saying that sums up the three years at Harvard Law, it is: “In the first year, they worry you to death; in the second year, they work you to death; and in the third year, they bore you to death.”
PERCY J. HUSSAKOPF
Harvard Law, 1930
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Google Books
Handbook of Law Study
By Ferdinand Fairfax Stone
Boston, MA : Little, Brown & Co.
1952
Pg. 43:
There is an old law school adage that the first year they scare you to death; the second year they work you to death; and the third year they bore you to death.

The Harvard Cimson
Law School Revisions
Brass Tacks

By BLAISE G.A. PASZTORY,
June 02, 1961
(...)
Any student entering the Law School is inevitably warned: In the first year they scare you to death, in the second they work you to death, and in the third they bore you to death. It is only the third-year’s fatal boredom that will probably give the Committee any real concern.

Google Books
To Race the Wind;
An Autobiography

By Harold Krents
New York, NY: Putnam
1972
Pg. 261:
There is an old saying that during the first year of law school they scare you to death, during the second year they work you to death, and during the third year they bore you to death.

Google Books
The Class
By Erich Segal
New York, NY: Bantam
1986
Pg. 231:
There is an old saying about the experience of Harvard Law School: in the first year they scare you to death. In the second they work you to death. And in the third they bore you to death.

Google Books
The Lure of the Law:
Why People Become Lawyers, and What the Profession Does to Them

By Richard Moll
New York, NY: Penguin Books
1991, ©1990
Pg. 187:
“Law school was just as I had been warned. You know the old saying — ‘The first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death.’”

Google Books
Broken Contract:
A Memoir of Harvard Law School

By Richard D. Kahlenberg
Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press
1999
Pg. 159:
The old adage about law school is that first year they scare you to death, second year they work you to death, and third year they bore you to death. Indeed, since the inception of formal legal education, various thoughtful people have suggested abolishing the third year entirely.

The National Jurist
Scare you to death, work you to death, and bore you to death
Mon, 11/02/2009 - 8:11am
When I decided to attend law school, my family and friends were happy for me — they hoped the experience would make me respectable or wise or something like that (talk about wishful thinking). Attorneys, however, weren’t so excited. They listened politely, but then they told me how they really felt.
(...)
You know, they first scare you to death, then work you to death, and finally bore you to death…

The Law Street Journal
JANUARY 13 2010
In Your Second Year, They’ll WORK You to Death.
posted in 1L/2L by Allie
You probably have heard the saying or will hear the saying- first year they scare you to death, second year they’ll work you to death, and third year they’ll bore you to death. I am only in my second year, so I can speak to the validity of the third year statement, but the first two are accurate.

New York (NY) Times—Dealbook
OCTOBER 16, 2012, 6:58 PM
N.Y.U. Law Plans Overhaul of Students’ Third Year
BY PETER LATTMAN
There is an old saying that in the first year of law school they scare you to death; in the second year, they work you to death; and in the third year, they bore you to death.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, March 12, 2013 • Permalink