At the age when many teenagers are just beginning to speculate about what sort of career they might choose, 18-year-old Gabrielle Turnquest has become the youngest person ever to qualify as a lawyer in the U.K. The American student, who had received her undergraduate degree from Liberty University in Lynchberg, Virginia, at the age of 16, has successfully passed her exams after studying at the University of Law and has been called to the Bar of England and Wales.
Turnquest’s quick passage to a professional degree suggests that there’s more than one way to start your professional career. At a time when more than a few are questioning the value of going to college for a traditional liberal arts education, might others benefit from a similarly accelerated course of study?
Turnquest’s older sister, 22-year-old Kandi, has also passed her law exams. The Turnquests are from Windemere, Florida; their family is originally from Barbados and Gabrielle Turnquest says she hopes to return there to practice law, after getting a law degree in the U.S.
“I am honoured to be the youngest person to pass the Bar exams but, really, I was not aware at the time what the average age was.
“I didn’t fully realize the impact of it.”
Formerly, a person had to be at least 21 to pass the U.K.’s bar exam; this requirement was removed in 2009. While Turnquest has passed the exam, she cannot actually practice the law yet, needing first to complete a pupillage at a chambers — the final stage in training to be a barrister — for at least a year and then to be granted a tenancy. Turnquest says that she hopes to specialize in fashion industry law.
Nigel Savage, President and Provost at the University of Law notes that Turnquest’s studying law in more than one country could serve her well due to the “growing globalisation of law firms and the need for more international expertise.”
In the U.S., four-year colleges, where the majority of people earn their degrees, require students to take a broad curriculum of courses in humanities, life sciences, social sciences and other subjects, in the interest of providing a student with a broad education in the liberal arts. Students at Catholic universities (such as the one I teach at) also have to take a number of courses in theology and philosophy.
Might not students benefit from a curriculum devoted to coursework in their chosen professional field and be able to focus their studies as early as possible, as Turnquest has? Some such programs (in a field like nursing) do exist and could be a model. Four-year colleges in the U.S. would have to significantly revise their academic programs to offer more professional degrees and academic departments (like philosophy and English) that do not lead as readily to a career could find themselves endangered. Given recent concerns about college graduates not finding jobs, some revision of college curriculum — of what colleges are preparing students for in today’s world — is more than in order.
Not everyone can be as ahead of the game as Turnquest. She’s shown that age need not be a factor in getting a law degree and in starting on her career.
Photo Credit: The Telegraph