America’s Founding Fathers took pains to explain that the Constitution was not written to bestow rights upon Americans. In fact, they believed the government did not have the power to bestow rights at all.
Instead, these men believed that all human beings are born with absolute rights that are given to them by God the Creator. Sir William Blackstone, an 18th-century English jurist, was one of the foremost teachers of this idea, and the Founders drew on his wisdom when drafting our Constitution.
Sadly, many Americans today have seemingly forgotten that our rights do not come from the government. Activists are routinely asking the government to manufacture “rights” out of thin air so that they can further their agenda.
At Alliance Defending Freedom, we remember Blackstone’s wisdom. We know that our rights come from God alone, and we believe this truth should guide the law in America. One way we work toward this goal is through a ministry called the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which aims to build and strengthen a community of likeminded believers while training and equipping the next generation of Christian law students.
History of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship
The original vision for Blackstone came from Alan Sears, ADF’s founding president and CEO. Alan imagined a community where the best and brightest young Christian law students could learn from experienced scholars and practitioners to influence the legal culture and help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.
Because protecting God-given freedoms was at the core of Alan’s vision for the ministry, there was no better namesake than Sir William Blackstone.
In his Commentaries of the Laws of England, Blackstone wrote, “when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be.” He went on to write, “the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain . . . these absolute [i.e., God-given] rights of individuals.”
With this idea as its foundation, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship began in 2000 with 24 interns. Since then, the ministry has grown by leaps and bounds and now hosts an annual class size of over 180 interns.
The Blackstone Legal Fellowship summer program
Each year, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship welcomes a new class of Christian law students for its summer internship program. The program is divided into three phases that help build a community and prepare students to positively influence law and culture.
Phase I lasts for approximately two weeks, and it brings all the interns to a central location. During this phase, interns receive classroom instruction each day about legal theory and practice. Following these discussions, interns gather to discuss the ideas that were presented in small groups with their peers. Each day also includes devotional time, prayer, and worship, plus plenty of time to socialize and forge deep bonds with fellow Christian law students.
At the conclusion of this phase, interns move on to Phase II, during which they are sent out to participate in real-world summer internships. Blackstone interns work with a wide variety of organizations in the private and public sectors to gain valuable workplace experience that will benefit them in their careers. This phase takes place over the course of about two months.
Finally, interns come together once again for Phase III. During this phase, which spans about five days, interns hear firsthand experiences from notable people in the legal world. Speakers range from public officials to respected academics to successful partners at influential law firms.
As a ministry, Blackstone helps Christian law students reimagine how they can be vessels to serve the Lord in their careers. Phase III allows interns to learn about every corner of the legal field and listen for where God may be calling them. Whether interns go on to work at traditional law firms, in government, in corporate settings, for nonprofits, or anywhere else, they have an opportunity to glorify God with their talents, and Blackstone helps them to realize that potential. This final stage of the program also provides an opportunity for interns to reconnect with peers and friends from Phase I.
After interns have completed Phase III, they can apply to become Blackstone Fellows. If commissioned, they will work with other Fellows, ADF staff, and additional allies in pursuing careers in law. ADF and our allies work with Blackstone Fellows on their résumés, interview plans, and career goals to help place them in important positions so they can protect freedom for all while serving Jesus Christ.
While the summer internship is an important component in the journey of a Blackstone Fellow, it is only the beginning of his or her relationship with ADF. We are committed to continually fostering relationships with the thousands of Fellows who are already in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship and strengthening this community as we train and equip more Christian law students each year.
Since its inception, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship has welcomed students from 232 different law schools. ADF has commissioned more than 2,600 Blackstone Fellows, many of whom now hold influential positions in the legal sphere.
What have Blackstone alumni said about their experience?
Students who have participated in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship have personally testified to the effect that the ministry had on their lives and careers. Below are a few stories from Blackstone Fellows about their experiences:
“Blackstone is one of the most amazing programs I have had the opportunity to participate in. The focus on God, Christian community, and excellence have spurred me on to seek out and create a future dedicated to those principles. Having the opportunity to participate in Blackstone increased my courage, strengthened my faith, and created a community of fellow believers in ways I could never have imagined before Blackstone.”
Blackstone Fellow, Class of 2019
“Blackstone is a life-changing experience. I learned about law from a perspective which would never be presented at my law school. I was inspired to hear from practitioners of faith, and their stories encouraged me in my goal to pursue my career for Christ’s glory. I was also heartened by the opportunity to fellowship with Christian law students from across the country. Law school can be a very isolating and trying experience. Blackstone reminded me that I am not alone and provided me with a community to which I hope to remain connected for the rest of my career.”
Blackstone Fellow, Class of 2020
“I came into Blackstone with high expectations, and I left with those expectations exceeded. Blackstone has contributed to my professional, personal, and spiritual growth in so many ways, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience. Law school is draining and lonely at times, but Blackstone provided refreshment and encouragement . . . This experience has been irreplaceable.”
Blackstone Fellow, Class of 2021
The importance of the Blackstone Legal Fellowship
As a legal ministry, ADF seeks to protect and advance the God-given right to live and speak the truth. The Blackstone Legal Fellowship is a major component in achieving this goal.
Blackstone brings together a community of like-minded people in the legal field to learn from one another and work toward the common goals of serving Jesus Christ and defending our liberties. In doing so, Blackstone strengthens the alliance and equips students to further the Gospel.
In the days ahead, we as Christians know that we will continue to face immense challenges. The Bible tells us as much. But through ministries like the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, ADF is ensuring that we are prepared to protect God-given freedoms for generations to come.