Dear Prospective Entrant,
The reality is, only 58% of law grads get full time jobs that require bar passage. Not all these jobs even pay. http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=176606&p=5146995#p5146995
. Assuming that 10% of all incoming entrants don't want to practice (99% of people at my school do, incidentally), law school was already a bad decision for at least 1/3 of all grads. They will never work as lawyers. Those that don't get jobs come disproportionally from lower-ranked schools. http://balkin.blogspot.com/2011/09/sobering-numbers-law-graduates-who-do.html
. Meanwhile, average law school indebtedness nears $100k. http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2011/11/law-school-debt-bubble.html
There's a lot of emphasis placed on big law firms here because that's the surest way to pay down that big debt. If you miss out on the big law boat, you'll likely start at about $50k. http://www.nalp.org/salarycurve_classof2010#curve2
(keep in mind that a lot of those jobs in the trough, $95k+, are big firms in smaller markets). This is, of course, if you are one of the lucky few that gets a legal job at all.
Meanwhile, law schools are lying to you, telling stories of 90%+ grads employed 9 months after graduation, with the implication that they are all getting jobs as lawyers. They use salary statistics from a small, successful portion of the class with the implication that this small segment represent the whole. http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2011/01/harperdeception.html
(look at the data clearinghouse). Why are they doing this? To get a nice cut of easy federal student loan dollars, as the government is lending to students without regard for their ability to repay. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/business/law-school-economics-job-market-weakens-tuition-rises.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=davidsegal
So no, it's not elitism that makes me warn off people from less regarded schools, but rather simple economic realities of this noble profession. I read this article the other day, and I was struck about the actual nobility in how Lord, Day & Lord ran their practice. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/02/nyregion/oldest-law-firm-is-courtly-loyal-and-defunct.html
. Those were the good 'ol days. Now, prospective entrants to the profession are lied to and saddled with massive loans from the get-go. Telling someone not to take out $200k of debt for a school like Stetson is pretty sound economic advice. $50k debt? Okay, maybe that's not so bad. If someone wants to go to a school that has bad employment outcomes, go ahead, be my guest, I hope it works out for them. Nowhere did I say that law could not be rewarding. But from many schools, many grads will end up getting a nonlegal job they could have gotten with just their undergrad degree, except they'll be $100k in non-dischargeable student loan debt lighter.