An interesting little article, with a couple of good links, on whether an American MBA or a law degree are worth the investment.
Obviously, many variables cannot be assessed with 100% accuracy, which makes these kind of studies less than perfect. That said, they are fun to review.
My own feeling is that an advanced degree from an elite school still carries weight when job hunting. Conversely, degrees from the very low end schools create serious question marks in the minds of an employer. Whether the extra value is worth the huge premium or the questions about a low end school negate the cost savings, I cannot say.
For the remaining 90% of schools, I think the lower the total cost, actual and opportunity, the better.
I would not put myself in financial difficulty simply for a top school.
I would rather find a school that fits my personal situation (where I live, where I have friends, etc.) and focuses on an educational subset that is important to me. If you want to concentrate on business, consider law schools with strong tax or securities law courses. Or, if you want to pursue a marketing career, certain MBA schools may have stronger marketing programs than others.
I would also consider the timing. If you are anxious to get back into the workforce, can you accelerate your course load? Or, if you want to work while studying, are there programs you can do at night, on weekends, or in shorter, concentrated time frames?
The biggest cost of an MBA or law school may be the opportunity cost of lost wages you miss while studying. To get the best value, consider programs that minimize the time you are away from the work force.
Regardless of where you decide to go to school, remember that the degree is simply the starting point. It is your experience, your persona, and your ability to do the required tasks that will do more to get you the job offer than any degree.