It's not really about rankings per-se. There just happen to be 14 nationally recognized law schools that are the "go-to" recruiting schools for large national law firms. The U.S. News rankings could go out of publication tomorrow and the top schools wouldn't change.simplesimon wrote: ↑Fri May 31, 2019 3:09 pmI believe it's because the top 14 law schools have been the same schools for a very long time. Lawyers get a bit weird about rankings.
I know someone who went to a low ranked law school, networked her way into estate law (much lower hours than lit/M&A) at a regional firm and pulls in $300k as an associate.
Stories about graduates from low ranked law schools being successful are common, but if you look at the actual odds of a graduate finding highly remunerative employment, they are much better from one of the "T14" schools. At some fourth tier schools, around half of matriculating students never actually work as lawyers. Of course, there will be some highly successful exceptions just as there are folks who dropped out of high school and are successful. A good resource for comparing employment outcomes between law schools is here:
Regarding law and $500k outcomes: at a "biglaw" firm, it is not really possible to hit $500k as an associate. A senior associate tops out at $430k with bonus under the "NY Market" salary scale. There probably are a few outliers at uber elite firms like Watchtell or Sussman that sometimes give bonuses well above "market." However, many (if not most) Amlaw 100 partners will be around that level, and equity partners at top firms will be considerably more. Only a small fraction of grads who start at large firms (who are themselves a small fraction of law school graduates) will ever make partner.
Besides biglaw: in-house roles may get you $500k+ at the General Counsel level and perhaps a rung down from GC at bigger companies with good equity awards. Small firms comp is all over the map. There's everything from bottom-rung insurance defense that hire struggling fresh graduates for $20 an hour, to billionaire plaintiff's lawyers. Government will of course never get you there. Positions like Attorney General of the U.S. and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are barely north of $200k. However, a well-regarded former AG could easily land a $500k+ big firm partner gig after leaving government service. In a more realistic scenario, there are many "revolving door" Washington types who cash in on government service at places like the Treasury or U.S. Attorney's Office after a few years.
Setting all that aside, I think the most common way to make $500k+ is to start a successful business of some sort. You are an extreme outlier if you make that sort of money working for someone else as employee (most likely a medical doctor). Law firm partners are a bit of a hybrid given that they are technically part business owners even if they may operate more like employees in a very large firm.
Finally, I would leave with a quote form the Notorious BIG: "You either slangin crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot." Which is to say, making a lot of money probably means you are cheating (even if not necessarily illegal), or it means you have some very special skill.