Fair enough LitDoc, not sure I udnerstand you interest in academia, its a hard field to break into, the pay is decent, but won't blow you socks off. It makes sense for some people, but their are a lot of smart people competing for too few jobs. It could be you are the naturally intellectual type, if so go for it enough.
At W&M, in my first two semesters, I ahd a professor from Akron and another from Ill., and third one from UNC so its definitely possible to do it from a mid first tier school, but all of them had to run a 10 or 12 year gauntlet, where they were visiting professors that weren't hired, before they had enough publications to stand on their own. For biglaw it might matter which of the schools you are considering you go to, but for academia, you are going to have publish papers on the law no matter and probably run the gauntlet a little bit no matter what, if anything you might be best at W&L where you might get to know your profs better.