Akron Law student co-authors article assessing worldwide response to COVID-19 through labor/employment law lens


University of Akron School of Law third-year student Christopher Elko has co-authored a law review article with former Akron Law Visiting Professor Rick Bales that will be published this fall in Cumberland Law Review.

Third-year (3L) Akron Law student, Christopher Elko.

Christopher Elko

Former Akron Law Visiting Professor Rick Bales.

Rick Bales

The article, “Worldwide Response to COVID-19 through a Labor/Employment Law Lens,” compares and contrasts the various measures taken by national governments around the world in six different areas of labor law: workplace safety precautions, wage replacement, job retention, protection for underrepresented portions of the economy, child care laws, and the role of labor unions and other social partners in the decision-making process.

It wasn’t what Elko thought he would be doing this spring.

“Like everybody else [at the law school], I had all my resumes out, and I was doing interviews for summer internships. And then COVID hit, and everything got canceled. I had to find something to do, so I just started harassing everybody about giving me projects.”

Bales, a prolific writer of scholarly books and articles, had received an email from Cumberland Law Review in early April inviting him to submit an article for a symposium issue on legal responses to the pandemic.

“I told them I'd be happy to do it on condition that I could co-author with a student, and they agreed,” Bales said.

He then asked Alisa Benedict O’Brien, the law school’s assistant dean for career services, if she could recommend a student who was a really good writer and would be able to jump quickly on a project. She recommended Elko.

“I knew Chris because he had taken one of my courses,” Bales said. “He got onto the project and did a superb job.”

Elko jumped at the opportunity.

“I didn't know a thing about labor law, and I’d never written an academic article,” he said. “But not being able to go the traditional route for the spring and summer, I figured this was the next best thing, because writing is the one skill set that's going to translate to any job.”

Bales told him this wasn’t going to be like a normal law review article, because everything was going to be changing constantly.

“Professor Bales wanted to try and keep everything as current as possible,” Elko said. “What was relevant one week was irrelevant a week later.”

They submitted the final article early July, but that wasn’t the end of it. As soon as the article was done, Bales asked Elko if he wanted another project — editing an abbreviated version of the article for Italian Labour Law e-Journal, an open-access, peer-reviewed, U.S.-focused, English-language journal that Bales had worked with previously. The article has now been published online.

Elko said the experience has given him new insight into labor/employment law, but his preferred career path is still commercial and civil litigation work.

Bales, who was a visiting professor at Akron Law for two years, will be a visiting faculty member at Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China, this academic year. Owing to pandemic and visa restrictions on travel to and from the U.S. and China, he will be teaching online from home.