Here's the deal:
I am: 0L, accepted to the three schools (WashU-STL; GW; W&M) in the title, and waiting to hear back from GULC and UVA.
My goals: Maximum flexibility in terms of several types of job options (biglaw for a few years or public interest/non-profit or government, etc.), with maximum flexibility in terms of location/region/small city/major metro area, etc. I am pretty open-minded to different types of work and locations but do not want to cut myself off from anything (including BigLaw) in case I end up becoming interested in it.
I recognize: that names and ranks count to a certain extent (although I question their methodology, level of arbitrariness, general injustice, etc.), and that certain schools can translate into more job offers/greater flexibility in terms of different types of choices.
I recognize also: that regardless of my best efforts, I may end up in bottom third of my class no matter where I go.
I have: the opportunity (owing to a combination of scholarships, savings, and assistance from a third party) to attend any of these schools without significant financial difficulty for the first one to two years (may need a loan for the last year).
I have also: lived/spent considerable time in all four locations of the five schools mentioned above. I like all said cities/towns/states, although from what I hear of the Virginia Bar, I may have to bypass that exam (hmmph).
Several 3Ls (who may be biased?) have told me they don't think there exists an appreciable "reputation/name recognition" difference among, say, the Top 30 or 40 schools until you get into the T14. If this is the case, I choose W&M, irrespective of its recent drop from 27 to 31. The campus, environment, location, and ambience all appeal to me a little bit more than the others.
At the moment (recently released rankings), Wash U/WUSL is highest at 19. There's a spreadsheet floating around that a LSD member very kindly drafted to indicate the past ten years or so of rankings, and I think WUSL was holding strong between mid-to low twenties for most of that time (W&M fluctuated from low thirties to mid twenties).
GW has also had a few point drop, but I am a little bit concerned about it (and GULC) in terms of quality of life (unhappy? ultra-competitive? impersonal or lack of comfort with profs?). Also, again noting that I have no idea how well I will do in law school, I may end up in the bottom half or third of my class--would this be significantly worse at W&M than at WUSL or even GW?
Any thoughts--especially ones that focus on rankings and job prospects as opposed to location or cost--would be appreciated.