Critical information about the whole enterprise of any given "law school" - the institutional structures, the quality of management, the philosophies of its stakeholders, and any depth of how to speak with admissions administrators about it - is not much discussed by people here trying to buy in. It is treated as a form-filling exercise. No doubt the world needs form-fillers, but how many more is pithily put in discussions of "the market" just fine.
The issue is that law schools are fungible. Maybe there's ?something? to be said about Georgetown's alternative curriculum (no clue) but it's not like different law schools are providing meaningfully different experiences or producing different kinds of lawyers. In fact, if they were to do so, it would damage the academic bloodsport element of law school and end up breaking the system. Thus, the best way to judge a law school is to see how well it operates in its purpose—putting people into jobs. You might not like that this is a strictly analytical exercise, but unless/until law schools not called "Yale" provide meaningfully different job opportunities for students, that's what we have. We use numbers because the qualitative aspects of the experience are completely fungible.
I continue to maintain that a class of people hoping to be trained in the law and given the social capital of an elite law degree should probably do what they can to understand what it is that they are engaging with, who is making decisions, what the reasoning behind these decisions are, how the people at the very top think about the future, and for that matter, the present.
Here the problem is that "elite law degrees" don't actually confer social capital. They don't. Maybe a small handful of people at each top school will have real social capital, but again, outside of Yale, you're not really dealing with the future movers and shakers of the world. You're not dealing with future Senators. We're just lawyers.
I also get the impression that besides learning how to do more than read numbers as numbers, people would do well to begin to think in terms of power and what defining relationships through debt this way means for society, and to treat the application process as an exercise in telling stories with their own numbers and acknowledging power relationships and the human quality of judgment. This means learning about the people reading application materials, and learning about the philosophies of the people who run the institutions applicants will pay to attend (through their published work or blogs or whatever - deans do this). I would be interested to know how cotiger feels about his time in the application process and whether it was a net positive experience in and of itself.
Again, if you look under the hood of law schools, you're going to find the same machinery everywhere. "Elite" schools and less elite schools will look the same. They'll have the same mix of fuck-the-system lawyers for change, somewhat respectable academics (though more of these on the top), and people who are actually interested in teaching law well. But, if someone were to choose Harvard for Lessig or Manning, or choose NYU for Dworkin (RIP) or Nagel, or choose CLS for Wu, they'd probably be disappointed. I'd wager that there are professors at each school who are anti-capitalist and who would like to change the nature of the legal profession. The problem is that they're utterly impotent. (And, honestly, most of them are shit scholars when it comes down to it.)
These are concentrations of influential people, and probably a lot of their kids.
Business school students know how to operate within networks and that the value proposition of their community translates into the price tag as much as the cachet and recruiting. It seems like setting money on fire not to put oneself in the position to take advantage of proximity to and interaction with really well-networked people. What does "biglaw + clerkships" tell you about a school? The cynical answer is "more than most schools want you to know," but this breaks down at a certain level.
What level does it break down at?
Here's part one
of my problem with what you're talking about: every ends up in the same places. Let's look at some of the top firms in the country:
(you're going to hate that I'm using basic math for this, but just deal with it for a second)
Cravath: 95 summer hires
S&C: 124 summer hires
Skadden: 128 summer hires
DPW: 126 summer hires
STB: 63 (NYC) summer hires
Cleary: 98 (NYC) summer hires
Weil: 93 summer hires
Kirkland: 126 summer hires
Latham: 36 (NYC) summer hires
GDC: 37 (NYC) summer hires
PW: 82 (NYC) summer hires
Let's stop there. (n.b., I don't draw this line to distinguish these firms from others or to make any real point, I'm just grabbing the numbers of many "elite" firms that would be desirable outcomes and that aren't really super special in any way). That's about 1000 (a touch more) jobs that people from "elite" law schools will entire into. Because there's a solid 1000 jobs there, here's the not-so-shocking truth revealed by the numbers—the law schools are all pretty much the same, because no one school can satisfy the needs of "top firms." Again, you'd probably hate this for various reasons, but we could compare the 1000 "elite" (lol) jobs here and compare them to the number of desirable not-Biglaw outcomes for students at top law schools. My guess without data is that you're talking about something closer to 100 very desirable jobs/fellowships/whatever else's a year. Somewhere around less than a tenth of the "elite" (lol) biglaw jobs and an even smaller portion of the whole.
This is why people fixate on the biglaw numbers. They're jobs that people can actually get. It would be ludicrous to plan your life around one of the special snowflake jobs. These kinds of jobs are the attainable "good" outcomes for law students.part two
Let's think hard for a second about what the "special snowflake" jobs are: you have people who manage to get into some sort of PI fellowship, you have people who end up doing elite crim work, you have people who pursue IHRL, and you have people who end up directly in gubmint. That's about it. No really, that's about it. Those are the things that lawyers at top schools do if they don't do biglaw. Going through each, (1) the PI fellows often have overlap with people who do a biglaw summer and there are too few of them to choose a school planning on it (unless you interview for the NYU RTK or something similar), (2) the elite crim people can find work, but I don't think the people who want
that work are the targets of this thread (3) I'm just going to point to any WT thread about IHRL and move on and for (4) gubmint, gubmint is great, but there have been so few positions post '08 that you'd be a fool to count on it.
That's what people actually do with their law degrees. It's not about a "lack of creativity" it is about those being the options. If you know of great opportunities that everyone is missing out on, put them forward. But, unlike in business or anything else, you can't make your own opportunity here. Hanging a shingle as a solo practitioner is an option, but it's risky. Most of the people who I know who have pursued that route (or something similar) end up in the 30-40k a year range. They would almost assuredly have been better off not going to law school. (unless they just really fucking love BIG DIVORCE LAW). I'd direct people to the Something Awful law thread if they want to read more about what it's like to be a solo practitioner, because they have a few who post and they're pretty rad.
People only know how to talk about risks here, and talk about optionality in terms of doors closing. This is a sick mindset for the class of people charged in the aggregate with making up and discussing the reasons for the rules we bind each other by. It makes us all poorer. Fuck capital's bullshit excuses and fuck capitulation to that ideology. Fuck being worn down by outdated disingenuously applied economics, resentment, and moral hazard reasoning.
Except we aren't "charged in the aggregate with making up and discussing the reasons for the rules we bind each other by." Lawyers aren't legislatures. We're really not. Maybe, at the fringes, lawyers can push on the law through restatements/practice guides/specialized rules, but that's not what most lawyers should do or really want to do. If you want to talk to the people who actually figure out the rules, you're going to need to find a forum of US Representatives or something similar. We're just mercenaries who argue about the things that legislatures decided or that have been the rules of business since (seemingly) time immemorial. We're not artists and we sure as hell aren't the Atlases you think we are.