"That 'prestige' enjoys an outsized influence in the legal profession is established beyond all argument." - Brian Dalton, "Top Litigation Firms By Pedigree: Is Prestige Fate?" in Abovethelaw.com, February 18, 2015. Here is the article.
The aura of prestige extends way beyond the legal sector.
When I was a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, on the elevator at the MLA annual meeting that was palpable. Riding the elevators, everyone of every rank seemed to take a peek at others' name tags. Those listed the academic institution you were associated with. I got it: I felt less than because I wasn't from Harvard or Yale.
Perhaps it was that awful feeling which triggered my compulsion to get to Harvard. Finally, when I was in my early 40s I applied to and was admitted to Harvard Law School.
In the trenches of public affairs, which is supposed to be a meritocracy based on talent and client outcomes, prestige dominates. Clients want to be represented, even at the basic retainer cost of $15,000 a month, by the firms with the pedigree. That makes them feel safe. So much for the supposed "reasonable man."
Even in the so-called "craft" of writing, prestige trumps mostly everything else. My marketability is primarily determined by the big-brandname thought leaders for whom I ghostwrite content and the influential media outlets which publish me under my own byline.
The grim lesson here is this: Chase prestige, at least early in your career. Correct that. Chase prestige, always.