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Changing Lives of Law Students So They Can Change the Culture for Christ

By Nathaniel Bruno posted on:
January 29, 2018

“How would you like to have your life changed this summer?”

An ADF team member asked me that question in 2001 when he invited me to participate in the second annual Blackstone Legal Fellowship.

I was a first-year law student who had sent a hopeful letter to the ADF offices inquiring whether any summer legal internships were available. I was overjoyed to learn that ADF offered a nine-week summer program for law students. Attendees were trained in Christian worldview apologetics, constitutional law principles, and practical legal skills, all to help them transform the legal industry and culture for the purpose of keeping the doors open for the gospel and ensuring that true freedom flourishes.

The Blackstone Legal Fellowship did change my life, in many positive ways.

As a student at a public law school in the heart of San Francisco, I spent my first year in many ways feeling lonely and off-balance. At every turn, it seemed I encountered very progressive professors, classmates, and views that opposed both the values of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principles of sound, liberty-preserving jurisprudence. Blackstone revamped my whole outlook. It renewed my sense of calling, instilled in me the confidence and ability to defend and advance truth, and connected me to a community of other Christian law students around the country with the same desire to deploy their legal careers to spread the gospel. I no longer felt alone.

The Blackstone experience was profoundly motivating.

We received two weeks of enlightening insights from engaging scholars and legal professionals who taught us how to demonstrate that our rights and dignity as human beings emanate from God who created us, and must be exercised with respect for His design and authority in order for us to live truly flourishing lives. We also learned how the Constitution is, according to its original design, intended to protect those rights and abilities in a way that fosters and promotes liberty rather than cramps it.

I then had the blessing of working in the field for six weeks at one of the most respected public interest legal organizations in the United States devoted to preserving religious liberty. I obtained skills and experience far beyond the typical first-year summer law job while helping write briefs in groundbreaking cases filed under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

All students in the program then reconvened for one final week of vision-casting and fellowship before taking our training back to our various law schools to further implement it.

Overall, we learned how to put our faith into action in our law schools and workplaces, founded on the constant recognition that, without Christ, we can do nothing, but with Christ, we can produce good fruit for the kingdom of God, whatever the eventual outlet for our legal talents (John 15:5).

I can attest that Blackstone set me on a path to experience and achieve things I had no idea God had prepared for me, and that I would not have been poised to accomplish otherwise.

I was blessed in 2013 to be elected a partner at an international private law firm. There I was able to live out my faith through my career by facilitating more than 30 adoptions out of the Los Angeles County foster care system (James 1:27).

God then provided an opportunity for me to join ADF full-time in 2016. The training and vision I received at Blackstone prepared me to participate in numerous legal efforts to preserve religious liberty and the ability of people to exercise their faith in the public square.

These occurrences are a testament to God’s superintending grace that touched my life in large measure through Blackstone.

The nine-week summer Blackstone Legal Fellowship remains much the same today as I experienced it back in 2001, although the size, scope, renown, reach, and potency of Blackstone has only continued to increase.

The impact of the nearly 2,000 Blackstone Fellows who have been trained in the nineteen years of the program cannot be overemphasized. They have gone on to become judges, attorneys and clerks in federal and state government positions, lawyers in large and influential firms, advocates in religious liberties legal organizations, scholars and professors in academia, communicators through media outlets, and transformers of the culture in general. Many donate their time, using their legal skills to collaborate with ADF in important litigation to advance religious freedom. Many also regularly volunteer in ways that give back to the Blackstone program itself, illustrating its vitality.

Thanks be to God for the incredible ways He is exponentially multiplying the investments of time, resources, and prayers by everyone associated with Blackstone to achieve His good purposes in an array of exciting contexts (Ephesians 2:10).

So, in the words of my Blackstone mentor:

How would you like to help change a Christian law student’s life this summer?

A stellar opportunity currently exists to double the impact of your gift to the Blackstone Legal Fellowship. It is an investment in the hearts and minds of bright Christian law students who are fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ aiming to use their legal careers to help transform other hearts and minds with divine truth. And it is truth that brings ultimate freedom (John 8:32).

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Nathaniel Bruno

Nathaniel Bruno

Senior Counsel, Vice President of Blackstone Alumni Services

Nathaniel (Nate) Bruno serves as senior counsel and vice president of Blackstone alumni services with Alliance Defending Freedom.


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