Duncan, you're obviously a very intelligent person. Our stories are remarkably similar. I'm not even that far away from you as far as age goes. You've obviously made an informed decision and are comfortable with the various risks involved.
Personally, although there may be a very small set of people for whom a non-ABA school may be appropriate, that set is probably very, very small.
To me, the frightening thing is that it severely narrows your options. Going to an ABA school may be problematic, and I think everybody should be aware of the potential pitfalls. (My opinion? Half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation.)
The thing that would frighten me about a non-ABA school is that as daunting as the prospects are for ABA-school grads, they're probably an order of magnitude worse for non-ABA grads.
I have ideas of what I would like to do upon graduation, but who knows. I have other options. I can try to go JAG corps. I can try to apply for work in the federal government. Just off the top of my head, those are two options that no non-ABA graduate can even contemplate.
I can transfer to a better ABA school if I can get good enough 1L grades. Again, no non-ABA graduate can even think about this.
Your decision may be appropriate for you, personally. I just fear that only a very, very, very, very small proportion of your 1L classmates realistically know what they're getting into. Granted, probably fully half or more of the 1Ls at my school don't know what they're getting into, either, but at least upon graduation, they're eligible to pursue a job in the DOJ or whatnot.
Best of luck to you. As I said, we're not that different. You're obviously a very intelligent person. I hope things work out exactly as you have planned for them to.
Thanks for the compliments, Falcon. The only really intelligent thing I've ever done was to marry for love. But you're obviously just as intelligent as anybody here and you clearly have a generous measure of class to go with it.
I think you're right on target about the benefits of an ABA school. If a person wants options after graduation, ABA is the only way to go. This thread has been an exercise for me to explore some of Hamilton's rhetorical questions. Hopefully, the OP is getting some useful food for consideration out of it as well, in light of the difficult issues that have been discussed. But one of the most poignant things I've heard anybody say anywhere on this forum is your observation, Falcon, that "half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation." That smacks of fact. One of the hardest things to do in life is to find a career that you absolutely love, and then weave your life around it. Too many people of my acquaintance have settled for jobs they hate (the current marketplace for jobs notwithstanding). Somehow I managed to get it right, but I was 34 before I did. Enrolling in law school before you've fallen in love with a career in law seems bass-ackwards to me. It's certainly risky, at any rate. A person should first discover a love for working in law, at least on some level, and when that prerequisite has been established, boom: enroll. Otherwise, I fear the reality of what it means to be a lawyer may be sadly disappointing, if not flat-out boring for many people. In my discussions with classmates about our study habits, the better students consistently describe the bulk of their law school experience as solitary. The really good students that I've met don't seem to be chronically socializing with other students or meeting in study groups to practice spotting issues and to discuss cases. Instead, they're confined to their dens by themselves: reading cases and writing briefs, outlines, and practice exams. In essence, teaching themselves the law and how to apply it. It's a lonely business and not for everyone.
So as I survey the people spread across my class, I know that a percentage, mostly the younger ones, are unclear why they're even there or what they should expect from it. The older students tend to be very clear, on the other hand. Most of the older people expect the law education to enable them to perform their jobs better and to help them stay on top of their game and remain competitive, even if they never pass the bar. That in itself makes the education worthwhile. For example, I have several colleagues, all of whom ought be doing exactly what I'm doing to avoid stagnating at their desks. I don't mean to sound like I'm clapping myself on the back, but after a long day at work, I'm sitting in a classroom learning about res ipsa loquitur
or 3PB contracts while my co-workers are all at home eating dinner and preparing for a hard night's TV schedule. The company sees this. Just as importantly, so do our clients. And after a single, swift year of law school, even at a mere state school, I'm becoming aware that I'm pulling ahead of my peers, most or all of whom have been in the business twice as long as I have. Pretty gratifying. At the same time, a lot of important leaders in my company and industry are stampeding toward retirement, and there isn't exactly a surfeit of qualified people to replace them. When those people start calling it a day in the next few years and the powers above look around at their options for promotion, I expect to be standing far apart from the crowd.
You're probably right that there aren't many people who can make a state school education really pay off. But for the right person in the right place with a good plan, I believe it's not as big a gamble as it may appear.