I thought this was a good article to read, but you have to kind of take it with a grain of salt. As someone else pointed out, it doesn't apply as much to people outside of biglaw ... and even then, it applies to NYC biglaw much more than to anywhere else.
Also, I think the author is wrong in his contention that law school students choose firms on the basis of small differences in starting salary. He seems to take this idea and use it as a justification for blaming all of biglaw's ills on young associates. To me, it seems like partners dominate the environment, expectations, salaries, and attitudes of their firms. I seriously doubt, for example, that huge gobs of associates go into firm life thinking that they want to work 80 hours a week so that they can earn that extra $20K in bonus at the end of the year. Instead, I think they get swept up in the culture of a firm, which rewards brutally long hours; this culture for the most part is a result of a conscious decision by partners to use a business model that squeezes profits out of overworked associates.
One more thought: even if working in a firm sucks, it's often useful as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. The author tends to discount the value of the firm credential, which is ironic because he obviously used his background as a biglaw lawyer as a part of his resume for getting a law prof's job at Vandy. The reality is that most, if not all, succesful lawyers, in-house types, and law professors spend at least a few years in the clutches of some of the biggest and baddest firms. Even public interest/government types have biglaw backgrounds; Spitzer worked at Skadden, for example.
You have to put working in a firm in perspective. Yes, it may suck. But every young professional will face long weeks at some point in their career. Every person that makes over $100K has had to prove themselevs at some point. Why should the legal profession be any different?