By Jan Pudlow
If there’s a down side to being an overachiever, when Gabrielle Turnquest was a 12-year-old high school student in Kissimmee, she was too young to date.
When she was 14 and started taking college courses, she was too young to drive a car.
When she made history at Liberty University in Virginia for receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology at 16, with plans to get her Ph.D. by 18, she soon learned no one would want to take clinical psychological advice from a teenager.
And when she was studying law at The University of Law in London, she was too young to vote for president of the United States.
Ah, but there’s a definite up side to being on the fast track to success.
Being the youngest person to pass the bar exam and become Great Britain’s youngest barrister in more than 600 years has catapulted her to a bit of fame, with her achievements featured in Time magazine and The Huffington Post. While the average lawyer passes Great Britain’s “bar professional training course” at the age of 27, Turnquest was called to The Bar of England and Wales through the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn on July 30, 2013, after passing her graduate diploma in law when she was 17.
When the News caught up with Turnquest, she had recently celebrated her 19th birthday. She lives in Los Angeles and attends the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, with plans to take the multistate bar exam and sit for the California bar exam this summer.
“I don’t get caught up in the hysterics of it,” Turnquest said with a laugh, about all the hoopla surrounding her achievements at such a young age.
“Now, I kind of see it as a challenge to get more done. Why not? Early on, I don’t think there was any pressure. I didn’t realize how fast things were escalating. I think in most things, there’s still the normal procrastination. I always need a deadline for inspiration.”
Now, she is studying apparel industry management, with the idea of specializing in intellectual property law related to the fashion industry.
“I don’t envision a particular company,” Turnquest said of her future employer or clients.
“But I would like them to be a global corporation and play off the fact I have benefitted from traveling and understand the law in other countries.”
Asked if she has a five-year-plan, Turnquest answered with a giggle, “No, but I have five-year bullet points.”
And the first bullet point is creating a political blog with her sister, sparked by her frustration of being unable to vote in the U.S. presidential election of 2012 because she was too young — even though she was a law student.
Her hope is to make politics interesting to young people, so they are better informed and inspired to vote.
But why a barrister?
“It’s a long and complicated road I didn’t think I would end up on,” Turnquest said, as she tells this story:
While working on her psychology degree, she thought she would end up with a child psychology clinical practice. But during her internship, her mentor told her that he didn’t feel fully accepted until he was 30.
For a 16-year-old, that seemed way too long to wait to be taken seriously in her chosen field, so Turnquest talked to her mom, and they discussed other options.
Turnquest’s mother is a barrister. Turnquest’s older sister was becoming a barrister. She decided to go with her sister to London and become one, too.
With dual citizenship in the Bahamas and the United States, Turnquest and her five siblings consider Windermere, near Orlando, their home base.
That’s where her mother, Patrice Smith Bullard, a consultant on offshore asset protection, lives.
Bullard described the process of realizing her daughter’s stellar academic aptitude. When Gabrielle was 6 and they were moving to the Bahamas, Bullard wanted to find out her appropriate grade level.
“She was tagging along with two siblings, who are two and four years older,” Bullard said. “It sparked something, where I said, ‘Let me not hold her back to what society’s norms could be,’ and let’s see what she can garner from doing what her older siblings did.”
So, Bullard would give little Gabrielle lessons, and soon recognized she was able to keep up with her older siblings.
“At that time, homeschooling was not as accepted,” Bullard said. “I created a curriculum. I gave what the Sunshine State Standards would be, and I was able to give her two years of schooling in one academic year.”
When the family came back to Florida in 2005, Gabrielle was 11, and testing confirmed that her academic peers were high-schoolers.
“For me to say I recognized she was a genius? No. But Gabrielle was prepared to do the work and was very vigilant. She was serious about her work, but always found time to play,” Bullard said.
Through dual enrollment and online courses, Turnquest was able to complete her AA degree at Valencia College in Orlando and her bachelors’ degree at Liberty University of Virginia at the end of her junior year of high school.
“I allowed her to stay as a high school student, so she would not miss out on high school events. I wanted her to have the prom and all of the high school activities,” Bullard said. “She found a great way to preserve her innocence in childhood. She chose to stay grounded with her high school peers.”
Bullard’s motherly advice is “like planting a seed. Ultimately, I allow the decision to be hers. At the end of the day, she is the one to live her life. And I am here to pick her up when she falls.”
Mom the barrister is delighted that her daughter is educated in the law.
As she told her daughter: “I believe the law is the basis of everything you can do in your life. Go with your sister, get a law degree, and find yourself.”