Thanks, sagemenscircle, finally someone brings up the question I've been seeking the answer to.
After reading posts galore on a few too many boards, as well as the column advice from nylawyer.com, I definitely got the feeling that as far as young aspiring law students go (the type who don't have to worry about families to uproot, etc.), the higher ranking the school the better. However, I have a couple questions perhaps some of you could answer. Take the following situation: a student applies and is accepted to a rising? school like Cardozo (ranked #57 in USNews, but #28 in the EQR rankings) and another school that is ranked higher according to USNews (lets say around the 30-40s) but lower in EQR. Money is the same at either school, but the location of the unnamed school is less than ideal (rural or highly suburban, and not in the state of NY, MA, CA, etc.). However, the unnamed school is considered more of a national school, as it attracts at least twice the number of national recruiters and has a smaller student population to boot.
1) Am I correct that if I want to work at a big firm in say California, I would be better off at the higher ranked school?
2) In terms of finding a job in NYC Big Law, I understand that local schools are heavily recruited so I would probably pick Cardozo over a 40th ranked school but what about over a 28th ranked (USNews) like College of William & Mary?
3) I keep hearing "First tier matters" but there are definitely many levels of first tier schools. Obviously the top 25 or so are no-brainers, but does it really make a difference if you're at a bottom first tier or a top 2nd tier (given that there is no money difference). I would think that if the top 2nd tier school were to move up to the bottom of the 1st tier by the time you're looking for a job, the difference would be moot. Am I correct in this assumption?
4) Also, I've read from nylawyer.com that sometimes, the school you choose will come back to haunt you 30 years down the road when you're trying to transfer laterally and the hiring partner at the firm you're trying to transfer to is completely absorbed about hiring only so-called first tier graduates. Will it matter that the school you attended used to be 2nd tier? I imagine if the school you attended was 4th tier during your tenure there but 30 years later is 1st tier, people would still say "oh, the guy graduated from there when the school wasn't that good."
5) Going along with the whole idea of hiring biased towards first tier schools, does anyone have any experiences regarding companies looking down upon a school that is 2nd tier at #51 versus a school that is 1st tier at #47? I would imagine that a school that close to falling out of the first tier shouldn't be considered any higher than a school just as likely to join the first tier, although from what I've read, it seems first tier carries extra weight. I don't know if the people using the term are actually thinking of top 25 schools when they say first tier, as there is a big difference between the top 25 first tier schools and the next 25.
Thanks in advance for any insights offered!