The truly elite schools (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc) are probably out based on your GPA. For those schools a 171 is pretty average, but your GPA is low. For some of the still very respected but not exactly elite schools (UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, etc) a 171 may be enough to get in even with a lower GPA.
I definitely agree that the top 5 to maybe even 10 are out based on GPA so my reach is probably limited to Northwestern or Michigan as the best I could possibly do (Michigan is #9 currently, but you know what I mean). Even with that my odds are very low, but I might as well try. For sake of argument I'll call them my "dream" schools because even though I moved to DC two months ago I would definitely leave for an acceptance letter. I'm from the midwest and I imagine myself eventually in Chicago doing corporate law, but I could see myself staying on the east coast or possibly in LA or Miami (as a film studies minor and sports fan I have an interest in entertainment law).
My much more realistic, but still reach, schools are what you recommended: Vandy, Texas, UCLA, and Georgetown, with my target schools ranging from George Washington, Minnesota, Notre Dame, USC, and Boston University to Boston College and Fordham. I'm fortunate enough not to have to worry about paying for law school, however I'm sure my parents would appreciate not paying as much--regardless of their financial position. A school like SMU, George Mason, Miami, Loyola Chicago and most definitely American may reward me for choosing them. Besides, worse fates have become people that have graduated those schools However, I'm sure many of you would agree that those degrees don't travel quite as well.
I think a lot is going to depend upon the quality of the applicant pool this year, my personal statement, my overall resume, recommendations, and interviews. I wouldn't be surprised to see accepts and rejects from each tier--even my "safety" schools.
Does anyone have any recommendations on how to broach the topic of my GPA? I've heard it recommended I submit an addendum with an explanation for the lower grades in my early years and the subsequent, drastic improvement, but avoid mentioning it in my personal statement.