I guess that I should clarify. This in no way reflects my own opinions on the matter. More than anything, it is a reflection on how messed up the whole ranking process.
I am basing this in the prevalence of the USNWR rankings on how most people rate law schools. From my understanding of the USNWR process, a ballot or some list of sorts with the names of the ABA law schools are sent out to whoever they choose to ask. For most of these "voters", name rec. is probably a key factor in their perception of a law school's quality. The idea is that if they see the Pricceton name, it has to be good.
OK..I agree with you. I've always taken issue with the silly "Tier" system. A Tier 4 grad who passes the bar is much more useful to the legal profession than a Tier 1 grad who fails it. Moreover, I've known PLENTY of Tier 4 grads (and an equal number of non-ABA grads) who have gone on to be deputy bureau chiefs and bureau chiefs of prominent DA's offices (not great pay, but amazing trial experience), and several Tier 4 and non-ABA grads who are partners at NLJ 250 firms.
Point is...the USNWR rankings...and their "tiers" are silly.