Gabrielle Turnquest became the youngest person in the UK to be called to the bar in 600 years, after qualifying as a barrister at the tender age of 18 years old. While her incredible talent for law echoes those of legal star Mike Ross in hit US series Suits, that’s where the similarity ends.
Turnquest’s amazing achievements are based entirely on hard graft and academic prowess. Now back in her home state of Florida, the fresh-faced lawyer, who originally hails from the Bahamas, is studying to also practice in the US. She explains the secret of her career success.
While I come from a family of lawyers, I didn’t consider law as a career until I was a postgraduate. I started my undergraduate degree at the age of 14, but I studied with my own age group until I was about eight or nine. I was doing a lot of travelling and ended up moving back to the Bahamas where I was home schooled for a while. During that period I was able to accelerate my studies, so by the time I got back to traditional schooling, I was around two years ahead of everyone else I was at school with. Since then, I have never fallen behind.
Once I made it to high school, I actually only went to traditional classes for two years. After that I was studying for my degree at the local community college and then transferred to Liberty University in Virginia where I did all of my bachelor level courses online. I was 16 when I started my postgraduate at the University of Law in London and left the autumn semester before my 17th birthday in December. I then did the bar course the following year, so was 18 when I finally qualified as a barrister.
Age was not an issue for me in my studies. Because I was still in high school when I started my undergraduate studies, I hung out with people my age who were also following the same programme of advanced studies. I still had that connection with friends and I didn’t feel isolated or lonely. The only time I had that university experience was when I started my postgraduate career in London. By that point I was already used to being around students who were that much older than me, so I didn’t consider being younger a disadvantage.
I don’t feel I have missed out on university life. I had my fair share of wild nights out while in London in the last few months. I turned 18 in the December before passing my bar exam so I had six or seven months of being legal in a foreign country. So, I definitely got that student experience at the tail-end of my academic career. I am still young and have time now to catch-up on those experiences. I don’t think I have missed out on anything, I have just decided to do it at a different time in my life. I will be able to get a lot more of the partying in once I actually don’t have the worries of waking up and going to class.
Will people take me seriously as a barrister? That question is always at the back of my mind. The general reaction to my age has been shock. There is an initial disbelief but then people get used to it. It’s not one of those things where people have come up to me constantly asking about it. Most people just assume that I am older anyway. Apart from being surprised, there has been very little negative feedback and no one has suggested my young age could be my downfall.