fastforward wrote:OP: What you are saying makes a great deal of sense, and that's the problem. Law schools are known to be irrational in making decisions, which too often are made with an eye to the USNWR rankings. A study partially underwritten by LSAC documents this: http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202435994960. The same article mentions a GAO study that shows the primary reason law school tuition is increasing is the schools' perceived need to generate funds to do things (e.g. award raises to retain distinguished faculty) to boost their USNWR rankings.
Northwestern has been said to have hired unemployed grads as research assistants to protect its employment statistics, and hence its USNWR rankings. The only cite I've been able to find for this, though, attributes the information to Brian Leiter, who has been highly critical of the USNWR rankings. Leiter devised his own rankings, which buffoonishly rank Thomas Cooley (with which he has close ties) ahead of Stanford.
http://www.aolnews.com/2010/10/15/opinion-are-law-schools-scamming-students/ So we should take what Leiter says with a grain of salt. Still, the information has circulated for years and Northwestern has not denied it to my knowledge.
None of this is to discourage you from applying to Northwestern. You are correct that you actually have a quirky advantage being below the 25th percentile GPA. Northwestern accepting the GMAT in lieu of LSAT is far too new a phenomenon for anyone to meaningfully predict what your chances are. But the new policy is indeed a clear signal Northwestern is ready to entertain alternatives to traditional admissions criteria.
It sounds as though you wisely are considering alternatives to Northwestern in the event you are not offered admission there. Because you mentioned John Marshall, I suspect you may want to stay put in Chicago. If you are flexible, you just might have a shot at UC-Berkeley. They have one of the best IP programs and they value post-baccalaureate work by applicants. U-NH (formerly Franklin Pierce) might just be ideal for you, given their emphasis on IP law. If you want to stay near Chicago, Creighton in Omaha has a good IP program. Your LSAT/GPA would likely get you in there. I am acquainted with a highly successful Creighton grad with a thriving IP practice.
Ken, this site's administrator, went to Berkeley and practices IP law. His posts contain a wealth of information (as do other threads here) on IP, so you definitely should search them. I believe if you look, you will see many posts that confirm the comments here saying once you get past the admissions hurdle, you have excellent professional prospects.
All the best for success, whatever you decide.
1) I can confirm they are employing unemployed grads.
2) No way gets into Berkley.