Are there any success stories in this forum of people who have completed law school and are earning a decent living? I would be interested in hearing from them, and where they attended school, etc.
This is a huge issue and involves so many different factors that it's hard to distill it down to a succint answer.
Here's what I can tell you: as cliche as it might sound, I've known people who graduated from T4s and got great jobs immediately following graduation, and I've known people who graduated from T1s and had to pound the pavement for months and months. Everyone's story is going to be a little different, but there are broad general rules that apply to most people.Experience
Unless you graduate from an elite school experience and connections will matter more than rankings. In my experience, law students get caught up in rankings more than most lawyers do. It is imperitive that you gain as much meaningful experience as possible during law school. Do internships, work part time at a firm, volunteer at the DA or public defender, anything. I interned for a great, very busy office. They had me writing motions, interrogatories, observing negotiations, even making appearances. I went back to that internship twice and gained tons of experience. The attorneys there all helped me out after graduation with finding a job, wrote letters of recommendation, made introductions, etc. I was told that if a job opened at that office, I'd be first in line. That kind of stuff is worth it's weight in gold, and you'll be amazed at how many of your classmates don't take advantage of such opportunities.
(BTW, I went to a local non-elite law school. Some of the other interns were from big name national schools. Most of us reapplied for a second year of internship at that office, and I was the only one was asked back. I'm not saying that to inflate my ego, I'm just pointing out that once they got to know me it didn't matter where I went to school.)Expectations
It's important to have realistic, acheivable goals. If you begin law school expecting to be editor of the law review, landing a job a prestigious firm, and making a starting salary of $160,000, you'll likely be disappointed. The people I knew in law school who focused all their energy on obtaining those types of positions were usually frustrated and depressed.
OTOH, the people I knew who focused on gaining good experience, acted with maturity and professionalism, and were good at marketing themselves all seem to have landed jobs. They may not be making great money right now, but eventually they will. If you can accept an initial salary of $45-65,000, you're probably being realistic. You may also have to be willing to move, at least initially. Cities like LA, SF, and SD are more impacted than outlying areas. I also know a few people, even from my non-elite school, who did in fact land high paying big firm jobs. It does still happen. (This is where a scholarship can come in handy, too. Imagine how much easier it is to take a lower paying job when you don't have those huge payments? Lack of debt allows for great flexibility, a huge advantage.)
I don't know how much you make in IT, but there is a good chance you'll make less as a new law grad. However, in a few years you'll be doing better, and long term you can do very well. I met a guy recently who's been practicing for about twenty years. He started a small family law/divorce firm that now brings in a million dollars a year. Not bad, but he probably struggled right after law school.
My point is that if you go into law school with your eyes wide open and with a finger on the pulse of the market, you won't be taken by surprise. In this market you've got to be adaptable and willing to go where the work is. Maybe your dream is to be a prosecutor, for example. Well, if the prosecutor's office isn't hiring, but family law firms are, then you better start learning community property.
Hope that helped!