UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – When Penn State Law professor Jeff Erickson decided the final for his fall 2017 Workers’ Compensation Law course would be a paper and not an exam, he hoped many of his students would use the opportunity to enter their papers into a national competition he informed them of on the first day of class. But he had no idea it would lead to two of his students receiving national recognition for their work.
Taylor O’Toole, a 2L, and Bethany Parry, a 3L, submitted their final papers to Erickson, who in turn highly encouraged each of them to enter their papers in to the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers 2017 Law Student Writing Competition. The competition’s topic scope encompassed any aspect of workers’ compensation law, including public policy, critique of a leading case or doctrine, or comment on a statute or need for statutory reform, and the submissions were judged on organization, quality of research, depth, originality of analysis, clarity of style, and readability. A few minor edits were needed for each paper, in order to make them fit the competition’s exact parameters, principally condensing them from the 30 pages required for the course to the soft 20-page cap for the competition.
Based on her interest in sports law, O’Toole chose to focus her paper on the subject of student athletes, and the debate over whether or not they are employees of their university, and if they should be entitled to workers’ compensation, along with the challenges that entitlement could present. Parry, whose interest lies in immigration law, focused her paper on seasonal and migrant farmworkers, and the challenges that both documented and undocumented workers face when attempting to access workers’ compensation benefits.
O’Toole and Parry took first and second place in the competition, respectively, earning each of them recognition and reward. As the top finisher, O’Toole’s paper will be published and she will be recognized at the college’s awards dinner in Nashville over spring break. Additionally, she earned a $2,000 cash prize for herself, and a $1,000 prize for Penn State Law’s scholarship fund. As the second-place finisher, Parry earned a $1,500 cash prize.
“I was very, very pleasantly surprised that Taylor and Bethany took the one-two finish,” said Erickson. “It’s a great and well-deserved result for them and winning the top two awards in a national competition reflects well on the caliber of students at Penn State Law.”
Both O’Toole and Parry hope to use their research on their respective topics in their future careers.
“Sports are what I love and enjoy, and there are many aspects to sports law, in workers’ compensation and beyond,” said O’Toole. “If I can make a career out of it, that would be amazing.”
“I’m passionate about immigration law, and it overlaps into many other areas,” said Parry. “Taking the information I learned in Professor Erickson’s class and applying it to real-life situations was great experience for my future job roles.”
The College of Workers' Compensation Lawyers was established to honor those attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their practice in the field of workers' compensation. Its membership consists of attorneys in practice for 20 years, or longer, representing plaintiffs, defendants, serving as judges, or acting for the benefit of all in education, overseeing agencies and developing legislation.