Should you apply via binding early decision?

Taken from an email exchange with an advisee:

Early Decision (ED) is mostly a way for students to know well in advance what the application outcome is at their first choice school, and for schools to manage their enrollment.  At most schools, it’s not clear that it gives any affirmative bump in the likelihood of admissions.  But, at a few schools, it’s also a route to specific scholarships (for example, George Washington University Law has a full scholarship that they only offer to ED applicants). 

So it comes down to a couple of key questions:  which among the schools you’re considering is the one you would absolutely NOT turn down? Imagine being competitive for all of them (and/or getting into all of them): which one would you choose?  Because what you’re essentially doing with binding ED is saying that it simply doesn’t matter where else you apply; if you get into School X, you’re going, no regrets about not applying elsewhere.

Important caveat: Note that applying via binding early decision essentially forfeits any bargaining power you may have with law schools for scholarship money.  If you’re applying to a school that is not tying a favorable early admission decision to guaranteed scholarship money, then you’re in a “take it or leave it” situation with whatever the school does offer.  You don’t get to weigh that scholarship offer against others. 

One additional related note: this year, admissions will be significantly less predictable than they’ve been in the past.  No one knows whether the decline in applicant volume will continue at the same pace or level off (although nobody expects it to bounce back up), and we don’t yet know just how much each school is decreasing its entering class size for either this year or next.  Conventional wisdom about ED, timing of applications, scholarships, etc.  will not be nearly as reliable as in the past.  Accordingly, I would not get too caught up in how to boost your admission chances except by putting together a killer application.