I just got this in a email, once you've read it give me your thoughts....
-The hanafi madhab followers resemble sheep on mass, they are taken to vast pastures of land and freely graze without asking many if any questions, not veering past the shepherd, they are of the stance 'we hear and we obey'. They attempt to be witty and intelligent making use of qiyaas rationale/reasoning to deduce legal verdicts, which makes them look silly at times, as they are attempting to emulate a blessed individual imam Abu Hanifa which as we know is a hard act to follow.
-The maliki's resemble people who have tunnel vision, they do not look left or right are more literal and old fashioned in their approach, not allowing updates or any contemporary insights to swerve them from their path.
-The shafi's are all those intellectuals who possess a sound intellect and seek to maximize their capacity by following the most well versed/well rounded knowledge of the 4 imams, which is quite conclusive. Their openness to reason and change, adaptability give them a uniqueness and a very much sound modern integration or compatibility with the contemporary times, they are thinkers and think outside the box. Their flaw similar to the hanafis is they are attempting to emulate and copy an imam who dwarfs their abilities, hence they are not able to fully grasp the message of imam ashafi.
-The Habali's are those which have a innate strength and toughness about them seeking the strictness and purity via sacrifice and firmness/resolve to overcome and to set high/tough goals, much like imam Ahmed whom they emulate, their flaws are their strictness sometimes overwhelms their ability to reason and adapt and update, which causes themselves maybe extra hardship at times. But this madhab is not for the faint hearted, only the most upright strong willed individuals adopt this madhab, as history has proven. They to at times fail to encompass the vast understanding of imam ahmed who was very much devoted in worship, which aided him in everything he did.
Now to make sense of all four madhabs is to seek their unique quality and how this can be utilized affectively. In life their are occasions when we must knuckle down and listen and obey our mother, father, leader etc., we hear and we obey unconditionally for the betterment of the ummah to unite and overcome squabbling over nonsense or unimportant matters. There are also occasions that present themselves when we must focus and not listen to people and maintain a tunnel vision i.e when people are attempting to introduce innovation or falsehood, we must remain stubborn and adhere to a one track mind, in order to safeguard ourselves and our deen. In other situations it requires us to apply our sound intellect and ability to deduce and accurately place knowledge, i.e there must be those open minded thinkers that seek to aid and support progressive thinking in order for islam to remain relevant to all the contemporary challenges, i.e. Dr Zakir naik for instance is a sound example of keeping up to date and applying both evidences from Quran and sunnah coupled with the intelligence Allah blessed him with. Lastly there are those challenges which require firmness and resolve to stick to the book of Allah and the sunnah of the prophet sal-Allahu alayhi wa salam, this is where the Hanbali's are the most formidable, just like the great Imam Ahmed they are prepared to hold on to the rope of Allah and not be swayed, possessing a perseverance and willingness to overcome all obstacles, without giving in. Each madhab has a unique quality that the other does not, so to accurately understand and be able to benefit from each madhabs unique blessing we must first understand the imams, then understand the followers and finally seek out that unique beneficial quality that is missing within us.
This is my limited understanding why the four madhabs survived and the others did not, this is Allah's wisdom, whom none but him knows for sure and finally all charcheristics from the 4 madhabs combined completes the ummah from every angle, AND ALLAH KNOWS BEST!!!!!