I agree with most of your points. I'm recent law school grad, and much of the "advice" out there is amateurish claptrap from 0Ls and law students who have no clue what they're talking about. They simply ape what they've heard elswhere, or regurgitate the USNWR rankings.
When I was a 0L, I too made assumptions about the legal market based on the uninformed opinions of others. Since working at a firm and a government office, however, I see now that although some of my assumptions were correct, others were completely wrong.
(3) If you do go to law school, I would starting thinking about a career path outside of an AM LAW 200 firm RIGHT NOW. I have friends that have started their own practice and they love it. While the first year to a year and a half were rough, they now make about the same amount as I do.
This is a great point, and should be taken to heart by anyone considering law school. I'm convinced that much of the hand-wringing and high unemployment stats we see are the direct result of 1) unrealistic expectations, and 2) people having no clue how to actually get hired. Unrealistic Expectations
Law students need to understand that the first few years out of school will likely be difficult, and they shouldn't expect to land their dream job at age 25. The people I knew in law school who expected to land great jobs and high salaries right out of the gate usually ended up disappointed and bitter. Those who focused on gaining lots of good experience in marketable fields of law, however, got employed.
Many law students are convinced that the only road to success is via large/mid-sized firms, and they're wrong. They consider small firm/solo practice as something to be shunned, but are clueless as to the potential for a good income. I met a guy recently who graduated from law school two years ago (a T4, no less) and has his own DUI solo practice. He charges 3K a pop, and brings in one or two cases a week. Even if you assume only four cases per month, that's 144k a year. Not exactly wealthy, but a helluva lot better than doc review. Getting Hired
If you're not graduating from an elite (or at least highly respected) law school, it's imperitive that you gain meaningful experience. The vast majority of law students will be competing for jobs at small and mid-sized firms, and perhaps local government offices. In my experience, personal connections and practical experience will often trump things like grades and school rank when it comes to landing these jobs.
Smaller offices don't have the time or money to spend hundreds of hours training a new associate. They need people who can hit the ground running. That doesn't mean they expect you to take a case to trial on day one, but they aren't interested in people who need lots of supervision, either. Most law students would be better served spending their days at a small firm writing motions and interviewing clients than by writing a law review article that no one cares about. If you can do both, so much the better.
I also think that part of the reason that the unemployment rate is so high is because people insist on applying for jobs for which they're simply not qualified. Law students must understand that you've got to make at least some effort to tailor your job search. Mass resume dumps don't work.
I worked at a firm that expanded quite a bit while I was there. When a position opened up, it was the typical story: we'd receive tons of resumes. But here's the thing, the vast majority of those applicants were completely unqualified. Not because they went to lower tiered schools or didn't have high grades, but because they lacked any
relevant experience whatsoever. We were a civil litigation firm, and we'd get applicants whose sole experience was a one semester internship at the DA's office. Needless to say, those applicants didn't get interviewed. Keep this in mind when you're looking at unemployment rates.
If you're smart, personable, and make a serious effort to gain experience and connections, you'll probably be alright no matter where you graduate from. If, on the other hand, you're immature and inexperienced, you're going to have a very tough time finding a job, grades and ranking not withstanding.