I know everyone has their opinion about rankings and how to determine where to go. I wanted to share what I have been doing and the results in case it may be helpful to someone.
My area of interest in law is fairly specific: I seek a career in biotech IP law. Backups would be general IP, health, or immigration law. But, since my advanced degree and background is biomedical research, biotech IP is my direction. I searched for a listing of biotech IP firms to start working with. From that list, I started looking at where the associates came from for those firms, and I limited the search to my schools of interest. I add to this the regions that I am interested in building my career, namely Chicago, but NY/DC possible too. Now, based on this preliminary search, it is becoming quite clear that a lower ranked, Tier 2 school in Chicago would provide better employment prospects for me than a top tier 2 (30 spots) school in Ohio (Cincinnati). Yet, most attorneys I have talked to hold on to the notion of going to the best school you can get into. But some do admit that this really only pertains to top 20 and tier differences. Within a tier, and outside the top 20, they say ranking matters less in their hiring. Class rank however, is more important in hiring - which is obvious. So if you find yourself in a situation where you got into a good, relatively highly ranked school that is not in a strong legal market, but you did get into a lower ranked school within a strong market, how would you decide? I haven't made up my mind yet, and I need to visit one of the schools, and maybe revisit the other one, but I know that I am giving this a lot more consideration than some think I should; many think I should not even be considering a school ranked 30 spots lower than Cincinnati (in this case Loyola and DePaul). My point here is to support the idea of contacting firms to find out where they hire from. Skepticism about the information law schools provide is a good thing. And while the more information you gather, the more of a headache you may get, the better your decision will ultimately be. Hope you find this helpful, but if not, sorry to have wasted your time. Cheers!