What kind of jobs did those in the top 20-33% get?
Government jobs are common, with pay starting in the $43-55k range. Jobs at companies are also available, with pay in the high 50's to low 60's range. Document reviewers who are direct hires at firms like Pepper Hamilton can pull in a base pay of approx 75-78k/year for a regular work week, and potentially a lot more if overtime is available.
I firmly believe that the "close to 6 figures" job at a medium to medium/large firm is a myth. From what I am seeing, there are these general categories in the private law firm sector:
(1) Biglaw & Boutiques - $120,000+/year starting salary. I remember that Stradley and Cozen were on the lower end of the pay scale, but with less onerous billables requirements, while firms like Morgan Lewis and Dechert payed $135,000 or more but at a cost in hours.
(2) Insurance Defense firms - $60,000-$70,000. I've not met anyone that had anything good to say about ID firms. One of my co-workers graduated from a T2 state school and took a job at an ID firm because it seemed like a reasonable starting salary. His billable hours were a minimum of 2200/year for $60k, and he quit before the 2 year mark because he had to work too many hours every day of the week. I thought he was kidding me, but its the same story over and over whenever I talk to an ex-ID attorney.
(3) PI and general firms - $30,000-$60,000. This can be great if you have a good relationship with the partners. Or it can be a complete nightmare if the people are horrible and your loan burden is crushing.
There's not a lot between biglaw and the rest:http://www.nalp.org/content/index.php?pid=618
The lower six-figure jobs you can find advertised in papers like the Legal Intelligencer are generally targeted towards experienced biglaw associates who want to lateral to a firm where they have more room to move up and less pressure.
I would also not make assumptions about only "soft" majors not finding jobs. There were plenty of finance people who were not able to land any job in the law firm sector. I would also not make any assumption about these people not being on the Moot Court team or published in a journal. The truth is that Moot Court and publication in a secondary journal counts for little unless the experience there is directly related to the job you are applying for. I personally think the Moot Court experience teaches people a lot more about the law than Law Review, but for some reason Moot Court lags in prestige.
More substantive undergrad can help you in specific circumstances. For example:
(1) You have prior work experience as an engineer AND you are going to work in patent law.
(2) You are an accounting major who became a CPA and want to work in corporate law.
The "hard" major only helps you if it is related to increasing profitability for the firm. An Insurance Defense firm is not going to favor a chemical engineer over a journalist just on the basis of undergraduate major. Firms hire you based on what kind of money you can make for them.
Biglaw hires prestige and class rank because that is how they can justify their outrageous billable rates to their corporate clients. Boutiques, small firms, and ID hire based on the skills and knowledge you bring to the table. Law is a Business first and practice second. If hiring you doesn't make business sense, you won't be practicing at that firm.