The culture of this movement starts with the Federalist Society. It first took root in America’s most prestigious law schools, and it attained prominence not just by creating a national network of ambitious conservative lawyers but also by hosting hundreds and hundreds of civil and intellectually rigorous debates, speeches, and conferences at law school campuses from coast-to-coast. (Full disclosure: I’m on the Federalist Society’s speakers list and I’ve participated in numerous of their debates and events. Participants get a modest honorarium.)
Of course, not every member of the Federalist Society embodies its culture and approach – especially now that membership is often seen as mandatory for political and judicial advancement in Republican administrations. But its traditions matter, especially to its most elite lawyers.
The conservative legal movement also has a distinct legal philosophy. Overwhelmingly, “movement” lawyers are originalist and/or textualist. Laws mean what they say on their face. Disputes about meaning are resolved by the text itself or the “public meaning” (the common understanding of the law) at the time the text was passed.
Many conservative lawyers are also institutionalists. John Roberts is a notable example. They have deep respect for the reputation of the judiciary and the integrity of the bar.