The bottom of the class at NYU or Columbia (and even at a couple of lower ranked schools) will still get 160k NYC if they want it. Cravath isn't a lock but once you hit T14 and, especially, T10, 160k in NYC is all but assured.
no one is arguing this, but making a statement about all big law firms based off of the one you happen to work at is what's not realistic. of course firms go deeper into classes of top 5-14 schools. but if you got to martindalehubbel or NALP you will be quite surprised at the myriad of schools representing at the big law firms, there are more than 5 by the way. if you're in a top 14 school great congratulations. but quit yanking your own you know what by implying that those who are not should "realistically" lower their expectations.
I can't tell if your use of the word realistic (or its derivations) twice in this post is supposed to indicate that you disagree with my assessment that, outside of the T14, it's unrealistic to expect to work in biglaw. If so, perhaps I can refine that a little. I'd agree that many schools just outside the T14 also place well in big law, for example, GW, UCLA, etc. And there are also other schools that place well in their home market, for example, Fordham. But at many, many law schools, and certainly virtually all schools in the third and fourth tier of US News, you have to be at the very top of the class to even be considered in biglaw. Statistically, it's going to be a small group of people at these schools. Perhaps we can agree that at many schools it's unlikely you will work in biglaw, rather than calling it unrealistic?
For what it's worth, I didn't go to a T14. I went to a lower ranked school and excelled, so I've seen some of this first hand.