Yea. This is the second write-on with the top 5% cutoff (mine was the last one at 10%). Although rumors, they are from someone who would know, and I trust, but LR thought they were getting shitty people and were tired of so many people just completely mailing write on in, so they convinced the secondaries that it was in the secondaries' best interest to cut it to top 5%. Really, all that did though was give LR more flexibility to pick exactly who they wanted.
I was on the board of a secondary that year and this wasn't a discussion we had at the board level. I'm not sure what happened but I somewhat doubt that the secondaries thought this would be in their best interest. I'm curious whether firms have realized that grade-on is now top 5%, or whether they assume that anyone in the top 6-10% who didn't make it either didn't do write-on or didn't submit a good faith application.
Also I do know a couple people without any journal who got a big firm job. I'm really not sure how important it is, but it's just one of those things that I personally wouldn't want to risk. If there was even a CHANCE that it would net me an offer from a big firm, it's something I would consider mandatory. Even a secondary journal can help avoid the dreaded "why aren't you on a journal" question. I actually did get a couple "why aren't you on LR" questions in OCI, which was fun (I don't think I got any callbacks from someone who asked that, although maybe they only asked because the interview was already going poorly). Also I think at least one interviewer confused my journal with LR so there's that.