I graduated law school in 2018. I used to read forums like these a lot, and looking at them now, I can clearly see so much of the anxiety I once felt about law firm rankings. I've made a lot of progress on those anxieties and wanted to share some wisdom of how things look from "the other side".
From where you stand right now, it's understandable that rankings seem important. I guarantee you, however, that over the long term law firm rankings are not very important. Your concern with rankings is largely driven by your ego -- you want to work at a prestigious firm because you think that will reflect well on you, or because you believe it is a measure of your worth. If you are being honest with yourself, you do not want to work at these firms because that is where you think "the work is the best", "the people are the smartest", or "that is where you will be happiest". As you go through your career, you will realize those statements could be true of a lot of firms. You want to work at these top firms to make your parents proud and feel good about yourself when you tell people where you work.
The wake-up call all corporate lawyers one day get is this: these firms do not care about you, as a human. Law firms are not benevolent organisations. They are for-profit pyramid structures where lots of associates serve as cannon fodder so that a small group of partners can make vast sums of money. As a general trend, the better the firm (according to your rankings), the higher the pay. But the higher the pay, the worse the hours. Firms are not charities, they are not giving you more pay because they like you. They are giving you more money because they are charging their clients more, and they are charging their clients more not because they can do work that other firms cannot (when you do deals you will sit across from "lower ranked" firms), but because they can get it done faster (a.k.a. you work longer hours). These firms rank well because they deliver for their clients, yes, but at your expense. To these firms, you are 100% dispensable until you become a partner, at which point you prove your worth largely by how much money you bring in.
If you want to have a long and prosperous career, where you make lots of money, feel fulfilled and have real responsibility, do not worry about law firm rankings. Worry about doing a good job at whatever firm you do end up at and about making career moves based on genuine enjoyment of the work. Over time, it is this behavior which will be the determinant of your long-term financial success, stamina, and happiness. Loosen your grip on the image or story you've crafted for yourself about how your life can or should play out. The reality is that you have very little control over the future and the trajectory of your life will ultimately be determined in large part by events beyond your control. Most people can barely control their own thoughts and emotions, so what makes you think you will be able to bend the world to your will. Yes, you should continue to work hard and push yourself. And yes, if you are genuinely interested by a certain practice area, you should try to work at firms with strengths in that area. But stop obsessing over rankings. Focus on what is real in the present moment, let go of your ego, and you will find your way.