After talking to a few attorneys and reading a little on the subject, I still think we're all way over-hyping this. Is law school a guarantee? No. Are there risks, and do those risks snowball as you move down the rankings? Of course. Things have changed before, and it seems like they are changing again. That does not mean that "half tuition--at least--and only at the t17". For instance, when my uncle was going through law school it was just shifting to the model we now have. Back then he got into a good school, did all right (he said he "guessed" around the "average") and still got a good job because people saw all grads at Colombia as better than all grads (more or less) from a school like Georgetown. Around the time he graduated it seemed to him like people went the other way, paying more attention to class rank. Where it wasn't the case before, first in your class at Brooklyn law school suddenly looked more attractive than median at Colombia or Cornell. of course, I'm not trying to suggest actual numbers, just illustrate a shift in theory. I haven't down the research needed to give actual numbers, but I think it illustrates the trend. There was an article I read, I think I found it here, that seemed to support some of this, though I think the article put the shift as having occurred much earlier, so maybe its become more pronounced over time.
People on other threads have indicated that firms may be going the other direction, however, deciding that too much talent is being left on the table at nearby elite schools to even bother with locations hours and hours away, or in even investing in multiple hiring searches at a variety of schools.
All in all, yes, most law school school grads will be boned. Because most law school grads attend schools like Phoenix, or La Verne, or California Chirstian (or whatever), Whittier, Chicago-Kent, etc, where almost the entire class is going to be hung out to dry.
My uncle's firm just hired a guy who was median at Hastings. After graduation he did work per diem for about 6 months before being made an offer. I don't know what his salary is now, but I imagine it's comfortable. What this board does best is help people manage expectations, learn about hiring trends, regional issues, or market strengths. it isn't as good when it resorts to chicken little type talk.
Finally, yes I understand anecdote is not rule, but it seemed like he was fairly confident that this would be at least a short term hiring trend for small to medium sized firms, at least in his area. It means a lot of us at middle tier one, or strong tier two schools, we might not have jobs at graduation. But by limiting debt, managing expectations, and understanding that we aren't going to walk out of OCI at the beginning of our second year with a gangbusters job, law school can still pay off for most. I think. Er, hope. What the fuck do I know? 0L.