You just described how you had a hard time getting a job out of undergrad because nobody had heard of your small liberal arts college. It's the same thing in law. Why in the world would somebody hire you from a law school that they've never heard from, has ZERO alumni representing the school in the firm, and has a bad reputation?
People will continue to ask the tier 1 or tttt for $$ question. Of those that go tttt, some will make it. Some. I'm talking a very small percentage.
Please allow me to turn the assumption on its head. I certainly wouldn't want to go to a school that has terrible long-term job prospects over one that has good ones if I could afford the better one (which, frankly, is an issue itself). What I am wondering is whether the better school really has the recruiting pull that everyone seems to think it does, and if so, does that extend to people who are not in the top 5% or so? By all rights, my undergraduate school should have had people beating the door down to hire all the smart and mature people going there, but it didn't. If the recruiting really isn't all it's cracked up to be, all I'll have accomplished is acquiring a zillion dollars of debt. People on this board seem pretty sure that higher rank always equals better prospects, but experience has made me wary. I'm sure that folks at, say, Harvard have firms lining up around the block to hire them for high-paying jobs, but what about Tulane, Wake Forest, or Temple? Looking at some average salary data and hiring prospects between schools in lower T2 and T4 hasn't been reassuring.
When I say tier 1, I'm referring to the 1-50 schools. Job prospects at those tier 1 schools are better than job prospects at tier 2 schools, which are better than job prospects at tier 3 schools and so on.
Why is it so hard to believe that a higher ranking would lead to better job prospects? Put yourself in the shoes of an employer: you're a mid-size firm for your market (15-50 attorneys), paying 80k a year, with two schools in your region, one is ranked 47th and the other is ranked TTT (anywhere from 101 to 150). In this economy you have one position to fill for the summer. Do you choose the student that is in the top 25% of his class at the tier 1 school, or the student in the top 5% of his class at the tier 3 school? The tier 1 student has competed against MUCH tougher competition and is more valuable to you, as an employer, because clients are more likely to hire a firm with attorneys that attended more prestigious schools. Also, given that the criteria to get into the tier 1 school is much higher, the tier 1 student is likely more accomplished and, flat out, smarter.
Going to a ttt school when you could go to a tier 1 is a huge mistake. I would only recommend it if someone absolutely could not get into a better school and felt that it was the only way they could achieve fulfillment. That, or they've been guaranteed a cush job upon passing the bar regardless of where they went (i.e., working for daddy).