Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney, Jonathan Scruggs currently serves as senior counsel and director of the Center for Conscience Initiatives. Most recently, Jonathan argued Brush & Nib Studio v. City of Phoenix in front of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Before Jonathan graduated from Harvard Law School, he completed ADF’s leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow. We asked Jonathan six questions about his experience in the Blackstone program.
1. How has Blackstone helped shape your career?
Blackstone shaped my career in two aspects. First, it was great to receive teaching about how Christian thought and theology intersected the law and to discuss these important issues with like-minded law students. And second, Blackstone provided my first experience of what litigating religious liberty issues looked like. I always liked constitutional law in college and during my first year of law school. But during Blackstone, I got to intern with ADF and see what constitutional lawyers actually did and the issues they worked on. I saw their day-to-day and their passion for helping clients and working on issues they agreed with. I was hooked ever since. Because of that experience, I started working for ADF right out of law school and have continued to do so for 13 years.
2. How did you hear about Blackstone and what about the program was so appealing to you as a law student?
I heard about Blackstone from older law students at Harvard who had already gone through the program and loved it. I was attracted to the mix of receiving teaching and hearing lectures along with an internship aspect that allowed me to do lawyerly work and to see up close and personal what lawyers did on a daily basis. As a first-year law student who went straight from college to law school, I wasn’t sure what type of law I wanted to practice or even if I wanted to practice law at all. So having a practical experience to work with lawyers in a field I thought interesting was important to me.
3. As a Christian, what was the law school experience for you like? Did attending Blackstone change anything for you?
I really enjoyed law school. My law school was quite large. That meant I got to meet and be encouraged by people like me and I also got to meet and be challenged (in a good way) by people completely different from me with completely different beliefs. I also got to see how my fellow classmates were passionate about using the law and their legal careers to pursue what they thought was important and just. I wanted to do the same.
Blackstone helped confirm to me that this goal was both vital and possible. It helped me see that two of my greatest passions—the law and the Gospel—could be combined in a career and need not be kept separate. In this respect, Blackstone helped me clarify what I wanted to do with my career and helped me prioritize the rest of my time in law school.
4. What were some of the highlights of your Blackstone experience?
Hearing the interesting lectures in a relaxing environment was great. But the times I remember most were meeting and dialoguing with other Christian law students, often during our free time. Exchanging ideas and just being encouraged by the fact that others had the same goals and passions (and fears!) that I did. I still keep up with some of my Blackstone classmates and now it’s a great joy to see the amazing things that they and other Blackstone Fellows are accomplishing with their careers.
5. What were some of the ways you felt immediately impacted by your Blackstone experience?
As noted above, Blackstone helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my career. That helped me chart a course and even guided what classes I took the rest of my time during law school. I also was inspired to keep pursing law as a career. Sometimes, law school gives the impression that only one path is open to lawyers. Blackstone encouraged me to believe that my passion for my faith and my passion for law could be united and didn’t have to be in tension. That gave me great hope during the rest of my law school experience.
6. What would you say to current law students who are considering applying to Blackstone?
Not everyone is going to find a career out of Blackstone like I did. I count myself exceptionally blessed that God used Blackstone to open a door for me to start a career litigating constitutional issues. But everyone I know who does Blackstone finds encouragement and tools to help them think about how they can connect their faith to their legal careers and passions. Whether that be in a big firm job or in government or in some other legal field. So, if you are interested in that—in exploring what it means to be a faithful Christian and a lawyer—Blackstone is for you.