The calculus you need to make considering HYS or CCNP or whatever the biglaw "most likely outcome" is should be whether it will increase your earning power 5+ years down the line. It's going to take you at least 5 years to get back to zero, probably more like 7-10 if you factor in the possibility of getting laid off or burned out. So, what kind of careers can you expect to have 5, 10 years out of college vs. what are the biglaw exit options?
This is really the heart of the question, and I think people vastly understate post big law options and vastly overstate non law options. The average BA/BS holder makes $75k/year mid-career. That's skewed up by engineers, who make $100k mid-career. The average graduate of Harvard makes $115k mid-career, and it's probably closer to $100k if you take out all the science/engineering majors or the dudes who go into finance, consulting, law, or medicine That's the benchmark you're looking at. If you can pay off your debt with big law, and make at least $75k-$100k mid-career, you're coming out ahead with the JD.
And I think the average post-big law lawyer is going to do that. The median annual wage of the 728,000 lawyers is $113k. The legal field is growing slowly, at about 1% per year, but unless they invent life-extending technology attrition can't drop below 2% indefinitely. So you're looking at 20-25k long-term jobs opening up in the field every year. Not great compared to the 45k JD's graduating each year, but pretty good compared to the 5k people entering big law.
And people are so worried about the downside of being Latham-ed, but nobody accounts for the potential upside of making partner. Which makes no sense, because even if you have a 2009-like collapse every decade, your odds of making partner at an Am Law 200 firm are substantially higher than your odds of being Latham-ed before you have any exit options.
I'm a big believer in numbers. I think people should look at the numbers to make their decisions. And I think the numbers show an obvious truth--going to law school is statistically not worth it because there are far more jobs than people. It doesn't get any more clearer than 45k JD's and 20-25k jobs. But the numbers also show other obvious truths--once you get a job as a lawyer, especially as a lawyer at a large law firm, you're probably going to be much better off than you were with just your BA. It's just the consequence of all of the barriers to entry in the legal profession.
For what it is worth, I know a bunch of people from my college making 150-200k per year, as 23-24 yr olds. Granted, these kids all had top GPA from a top UG. The most baller people I know majored in something quantitative at a top college, had top GPA, and landed jobs in quant-heavy high finance roles. One guy I know majored in CS at my college, had 3.9 GPA, and took a job at a top hedge fund as a quant trader. Last time I talked to him, he was making 360k a year as a 23 year old. (and he was complaining that some other traders he knew at other top firms were making more than him) Another guy I know - he was a math major and now works as an actuary at an insurance firm. His starting pay - 150k.
If you have strong quant skills and excel at a top college in a quantitative discipline, you can have your pick of pretty nice jobs. At the end of the day, the most fundamental equation in the labor market is the supply vs demand. As of now, there is a high demand for workers with strong quant skills, and those with these skills are compensated accordingly. Even if the vast majority of college grads don't have access to these baller finance jobs, I would imagine breaking 80-90k mid-career without any grad school degree, just with your BA/BS, is more than possible if you play your cards right. (majoring in something marketable in college, networking, building good reputation and marketable skill sets at your jobs, etc)
The biggest problem with law, I think, is that there is a vast-oversupply of lawyers. Even if you are lucky to break into biglaw, you will always have limited career security. I decided to not pursue law school last year after reading through many threads on this site, and after talking to an ex-biglaw attorney. He urged me not to go to law school due to vast over-supply of lawyers in the market. After biglaw stint, he worked at a dozen or so mid-sized firms over 20 years, each of which he described as 'dead ends'. He mentioned that each week, about 100 lawyers would apply for that one position at his "15-men law firm", and hence, his job was always in jeopardy. Not to mention, he complained greatly about his work/life balance. His view was that his employers (partners at these mid sized law firms) received so many applications from lawyers with top credentials so that they took advantage of the situation and mistreated their employees. (lack of upward mobility, strenuous working conditions, lack of job security, mediocre pay compared to the level of experience, etc) Now, after biglaw stint if you are lucky enough to exit into a top company as an in-house counsel, your career security and working conditions may be much better than what this attorney described to me. However, I heard those in-house lawyer jobs are very competitive to get.