I have absolutely no idea where I want to eventually live (and practice), so I can't really base my decision on location. One thing is for sure...after visiting the Penn State campus, I think that has dropped to one of my last choices...(funny too, since my luck will probably include me getting dinged everywhere BUT there...lol)
Oh well. Rankings aren't as important as atmosphere, and if the school seems like a good fit. Unfortunately, if I get any acceptances back (still waiting), I probably won't have the funds (or the time) to check out the school before deciding. So I'm stuck with looking at rankings, and message boards where hopefully I can talk to people at those schools.
Wish I knew where I wanted to live when I finish law school...would have made the process easier
I had a debate in a thread a few months ago about this issue and students in your situation. I will say that I don't think rankings are absolutely worthless, but I wouldn't base my entire decision on attending one school over another simply because this one is a 54 and this one is a 57, etc. What you can do is first decide on a few regions you may want to practice. That doesn't have to mean down to a particular part of a state but more like Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, NE, West Coast, etc. Surely there are a few preferences here. As for myself, I had 2 regions of the country I liked so then I used the rankings to pick out the 15 or so highest ranked schools in those regions. Then I began my research comparing and contrasting the schools- for instance, their national reputation, starting salaries for new grads, cost of education, teacher to student ratios, feedback from current students, pictures of their campus (like yourself, finances and a very busy job prevented a trip to college campuses for me), info. about the city and even states where these law schools were located especially in regards to the job market, local public schools (fiancée is a teacher), proximity to friends and family, and then also likelihood of acceptance, etc. After this I got down to about 8 schools and then also prioritized them.
Now in the end, for me, because of it's location, my familiarity with the campus and law school, available job already offered to my fiancee, the proximity to most of my friends and family, the cost of education and scholarship money, UGA won, even though Alabama is now equally ranked and offered me more $$$$, and to be honest was a better recruiter. Still I know I will be happy at UGA, and a happy student general makes a better student.