Federalist Society

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Federalist Society
Website http://www.fed-soc.org/
Ownership type Membership
Founded 1982, by Steven Calabresi, Spencer Abraham, and David McIntosh
Headquarters Washington, DC , United States
Industry For law and public policy studies

The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a U.S. organization consisting mainly of conservative and libertarian legal scholars, lawyers, and law students. It sponsors debates, discussions, and research on issues involving the U.S. Constitution, the legal system, and legal education. These activities involve proponents of various viewpoints, but the Federalist Society describes its own purpose as the promotion of individual liberty, judicial restraint, traditional values, the separation of powers, and decentralized government, and as providing an alternative to what it calls an "orthodox liberal ideology" by which it says law schools and the legal profession have become "dominated."


The Society is a membership organization that features a Student Division, a Lawyers Division, and a Faculty Division.

Student Division

The Student Division includes more than 10,000 law students at all of the 196 American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools as well as 24 additional chapters based at international law schools, non-accredited law schools, satellite campuses for ABA-accredited schools, and a few undergraduate institutions. The national office provides speakers and other assistance to the chapters in organizing their lectures, debates, and educational activities. In the 2006-07 academic year, the student chapters hosted almost 1,000 events, with a total attendance of about 48,000 students.

Lawyers Division

The Lawyers Division is comprised of over 30,000 legal professionals and others interested in current intellectual and practical developments in the law. It has active chapters in sixty cities, including Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Indianapolis. Activities include the annual National Lawyers Convention, a Speakers Bureau for organizing lectures and debates, and 15 Practice Groups.

Faculty Division

The Federalist Society established its Faculty Division in early 1999 with a conference that was attended by many of the rising stars in the legal academy. The objective of the Faculty Division is to provide events and other tools to help encourage constructive academic discourse. This encouragement will help foster the growth and development of rigorous traditional legal scholarship.

Policy participation

Finally, the Federalist Society provides opportunities for effective participation in the public policy process. The Society’s ongoing programs encourage the members to involve themselves more actively in local, state-wide, and national affairs and to contribute more productively to their communities.


The Federalist Society was founded in 1982 by three right-wing law students. David McIntosh, Lee Liberman, and Steven Calabresi were undergraduate classmates together at Yale University. The first two chapters were founded at the University of Chicago Law School and at Yale Law School. After the three men had collaborated ideas, they were soon joined by a Harvard Law student Spencer Abraham. Abraham created the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The society was created for conservative lawyers to have right inspired discussions. They were not trying to trying to push the law and policies to the right. Though, the group conservatives and libertarians committed to modifying the current legal order in the U.S. The mission and purpose of the society was to provide a forum for legal experts to discuss contrasting ideas. These legal experts include law student, legal professionals, the judiciary, academics, and architects of the public policy.

Current objectives and activities

  • Paul M. Bator Award: The Paul M. Bator Award recognizes a young academic, under the age of 40, whose life, work, and ideals most closely embody those of the late Paul M. Bator.
  • Olin/Searle Fellows in Law: The Olin/Searle Fellows in Law program will offer top young legal thinkers the opportunity to spend a year working full time on writing and developing their scholarship with the goal of entering the legal academy.
  • Searle Young Legal Scholars Research Fellowships: Offers up to two junior tenure-track faculty members will receive funding to take a semester-long research leave in order to make major progress on an important scholarly article. 


The Bradley Prize formally recognizes individuals of extraordinary talent and dedication who have made contributions of excellence in areas consistent with The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s mission. Up to four Prizes of $250,000 each are awarded annually to innovative thinkers and practitioners whose achievements strengthen the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the ideas to which they were committed.

Each year, Bradley Prize nominations are solicited from a national panel of more than 100 prominent individuals involved in academia, public-policy research, journalism, civic affairs, and the arts. All nominees are carefully evaluated by a distinguished selection committee that makes recommendations to the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which selects them. The Prize winners are then honored at a celebratory awards ceremony.

On June 3, 2009, The Federalist Society was awarded the Bradley Prize for “their ingenuity in forming and nurturing an organization dedicated to preserving the rule of law,” according to Bradley President Michael Grebe. The Bradley Prize is an official way to recognize outstanding institutions or companies that have exceeded expectations in the legal and professional environments. Up to four prizes and $250,000 are awarded to each institution annually.

Public perception and controversies

  • “The Federalist Society is changing the culture of our nation's law schools. You are returning the values and concepts of law as our founders understood them to scholarly dialogue, and through that dialogue, to our legal institutions.” - President Ronald Reagan
  • "The Federalist Society has missed no opportunity to assert that the Constitution had been stretched way beyond the Founding Fathers' intentions. They taught, studied, and spoke so diligently that even many liberals came to accept their views." -The Boston Globe
  • “[T]he Federalist Society has brought to campus the commitment to real, honest, vigorous, and open discussion. It is a result of the works of the Federalist Society to create a wonderful environment for discussing social, political, legal, and constitutional issue.” Dean Paul Brest, Stanford Law School
  • “...[T]here is no denying that the Federalist Society has left its mark on legal scholarship. Whether this is in fact due to a vast right-wing conspiracy or merely to the persuasiveness of some of its arguments, the intellectual descendants of James Madison can no longer be ignored.” Lingua Franca