I currently work for a college as an administrator. Over the years, I’ve developed a keen interest in law and research. Thus, I believe I would relish an opportunity to join the faculty at a school of law. I understand the importance of performing well within your class (finishing in the top 10% if possible), making law review, and possibly getting something published. I also, understand the importance of a judicial clerkship and a few years of practice. However, I am at odds with regard to choosing a school.
I have applied and gained admittance to several schools. I know rankings are not perfect, but according to USNWR, I have been admitted to schools that are ranked 25, 75 and 95, and waitlisted for a top ten school. Scholarships offered cover 1/4, 1/2, and full tuition respectively. Of course, I do not expect to get anything from the top ten school to which I have been waitlisted. I would love to finish law school with as little debt as possible, but do not want to lessen my chances of becoming a law professor at a good (hopefully 1st or 2nd) tier school. If the fit is really good at the lower ranked school, will I shoot myself in the foot on the backend with regard to becoming a law professor? From my research, roughly 1/3 of law professors come from the top 3 (Harvard, Yale, Stanford), nearly 1/2 come from top 10 (add NYU, Michigan, Virginia, Columbia, Penn, U of Chicago, and Northwestern), and 7/8 come from top 25 schools.
From my vantage point, my chances are much better if I bite the cost bullet and lean towards enrolling in the highest ranked school. Otherwise, I would have to be the top ranked student at a lower ranked school, land a great clerkship, work for a prestigious law firm, and publish numerous articles to make-up the difference. I have sat on several search committees for faculty positions and I have seen firsthand how applicants from “big name” schools have a better chance of making the short list. However, none of these search committees were for law faculty. Am I seeing this correctly?