Working Group Application Guidelines and Important Dates

This page contains:

Working Group Timeline

JULY — Working group leaders submit proposals to CILP.

  • For 2015-2016 Working groups, proposals must be emailed to by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 27, 2015.

AUGUST — CILP will notify successful group leaders that their proposals have been approved prior to the start of the term.  Working group leaders and any partner organizations must sign agreements with CILP.

SEPTEMBER – CILP will host an information session for interested students to listen to presentations from working group leaders and sign up for projects that interest them.  Working groups will start on their projects, which will be completed during the academic year.

FEBRUARY / MARCH – Working groups will finish their projects and CILP will host a launch event to congratulate student volunteers, partner organizations, and promote the working group projects.

Working Group Application Guidelines

Working Groups can only be created by upper year J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D. students enrolled in the Faculty of Law for the upcoming academic year.

What is a Working Group?
A working group is an opportunity for students to conduct legal research.  It can be done independently, or in partnership with an external organization, but it is always student-led and results in a deliverable. Working groups are led by upper year J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D students, who:

  1. Develop a project that will advance the field of innovation law and policy;
  2. Apply to CILP to become an official CILP working group;
  3. Recruit student volunteers predominantly from first-year law students; and
  4. Complete their project by the end of the 2015-16 academic year.

Co-leaders and a lawyer supervisor are required.

CILP working groups are eligible to receive a small budget, will be profiled on the CILP website, and will receive support and guidance from the CILP Co-Directors and Associate Director.

Procedure for Submitting a Proposal

Interested student(s) or student groups are encouraged to submit a written proposal for consideration by the CILP. Working groups can only be created by upper year J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D students enrolled in the Faculty of Law for the upcoming academic year.

CILP requires the leaders of all potential working groups to submit a written proposal for consideration to the CILP.

Proposals should be sent via email to The current deadline for submission of proposals is 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 27, 2015. Successful groups will be notified prior to the start of term and will be required to sign an agreement form.

Evaluation of Proposals

Proposals will be evaluated on feasibility, contribution to the field and CILP, benefit to student members, and tangible outcomes.  The top proposals (no more than three) will be selected to form the working groups for 2015-2016.

Proposals should identify the following:

  • Title/subject matter of group
  • Name(s) of the student leaders and brief background information (including degree program and year, participation in past research projects, experience in or knowledge of the applicable law, etc.)
  • The issue on which the group has chosen to work, and how the group will contribute to the field (i.e. why you see a need for this group—for example, will the group address important gaps in research or raise awareness of an issue?)
  • (if applicable) Name and description of the partnership organization, and letter of support from the organization. A letter of support is required to ensure that the group leaders have consulted the partner organization, identified a primary contact person, and that the partner organization understands and supports the project.
  • Description of proposed research or advocacy project for the year (along with long-term goals, if applicable). In describing the project, you should:
    • Define realistic, and measurable project goals (especially in light of the fact that most volunteers will be first year students);
    • Outline expected outcomes (i.e. preparing a final report, or research memos for an organization);
    • Outline planned means by which you will meet these goals and outcomes (i.e. hosting speakers or a special event; summarizing laws); and
    • Provide a draft work plan that includes deliverables and delivery dates.
  • Identify potential supervisors, include names, contact information, and include a letter of support (e.g., are there faculty members interested in participating or assisting in the review of final work product? Will members of an external organization take an active role in answering research questions as they may arise?).  If the project supervisor is not legally trained, a lawyer supervisor is also required.  A letter of support is required to ensure that you have consulted the supervisor, that the supervisor understands and supports the project, and has allocated the time to collaborate with the working group.
  •  Identify a project budget (for example, costs for bringing in a speaker, photocopies, lunch event; to a maximum of $250).

Other considerations

  • Projects should be designed to be completed within one academic year, which roughly translates into five months due to students’ limited availability in September, December, and April. The CILP encourages projects that reflect faculty research areas, or that are in partnership with faculty members.
  • Students are encouraged to share their ideas with one another and to collaborate on group proposals wherever possible.
  • All leaders must commit to meeting with the Associate Director or Co-Directors on a regular basis during the academic term and report on progress.
  • All working groups are expected to contribute an article related to your working group to the CILP’s website. Proposals should include other ways you believe the working group might contribute to CILP.
  • Remember to have discrete and realistic goals, tangible deliverable(s), a clear work plan with the number of meetings and deadlines set out, and well-defined roles and responsibilities of the members.
  • Proposals up to three pages in length (single spaced) will be reviewed.

Some Ideas

Fair Dealing in Remix: Create for publication on the CILP website a Code of Best Practices regarding fair dealing for music, in the model of Peter Jazsi’s work for documentary filmmakers: (Professor Stern).

Comparative Patent Litigation Study for Industry Canada:  Recently, there have been a few high profile cases (e.g.,  Teva Canada Ltd. v. Pfizer Canada Inc., [2012] 3 SCR 625) where patents were invalidated in Canada but survived legal challenge in other jurisdictions, leading commentators to suggest that Canadian patent laws and their interpretation by the courts are problematic.  For a set of patents, compare litigation outcomes across jurisdictions in order to determine if variances in patent applications (to the claims or specifications) within a patent family might explain why patents are invalidated in one jurisdiction and not in another. (Denis Martel, Director, Patent Policy, Industry Canada)

Patent Trolls:  Are patent trolls operating in Canada?  How do we define them?   Develop a web resource knowledgeable about their activities in Canada.  Possible advocacy on the model of the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School, (Professor Stern)

Hacking:  Survey the current criminal and civil laws against hacking in Canada and elsewhere.   Do the laws adequately cover hacking into cloud databases?   If not, what should be proposed? (Professor Stern)

Libel in the Internet Age: Survey of internet libel/ISP responsibility laws in US, Canada and GB.  (Professor Stern)

Tips for Developing your Proposal

Build on your Interests and Expertise: You are encouraged to draw on your previous education and experiences to develop a proposal.  A strong proposal capitalizes on the qualities and experiences of the leaders that are unique:

  • What were  you  interested  in  and  what  did  you  study  before  coming  to  law?
  • What  work experience, internship, or volunteer experiences do you have?
  • What interests have you developed in law school? What topics have grabbed your attention?
  • Could particular topics, courses, or volunteer experiences form the basis of an interesting project
  • Do you have particular life experiences that may be useful?
  • Who do you know? Do you know anyone doing interested work who might benefit from working group support?

Advancing the Field: The best proposals will advance the field of innovation law, by:

  • Showing a clear understanding of a concrete issue;
  • Synthesizing complex or diverse information (e.g. making information more accessible or easier to understand)
  • Clearly explaining the focus of any research (what are its limits? What is the scope of work?)
  • Identifying new issues and/or gaps in research (for example, does a partner organization need a particular resource? Or need to update it?)
  • Raising awareness (why is the project important? What connections will it make? What impacts will it have?)

Often the strongest proposals are those that continue, expand, or deepen work commenced through another working group, internship, clinic project, or research paper, or draw on personal experiences and connections.

Tangible Outcomes:  Projects should be discrete and result in a tangible product or outcome at the end of the year.

Duration: Projects should be designed to be completed within one academic year, which roughly translates into approximately 5 months of working time (little work is done in September, December, and April).

Feasibility: Remember that the vast majority of the working group volunteers will be first year law students who, upon signing up for the working group in September, will have very little experience with legal research or advocacy.  For this reason, the best proposals often have quite discrete and realistic goals, do not require extensive legal training, and can be easily divided amongst students.  Such projects might include creation of bibliographies, development of public legal education materials, or broader awareness raising, rather than conventional legal research or advocacy.

Supervisor/Partner: It is important to have a strong partner, which may be a faculty member, non-governmental association, or government entity.  Ideally, the project will increase the capacity of the civil society partner by drawing on the faculty’s legal expertise.  If you are uncertain about how to approach a potential civil society partner, contact the CILP Assistant Director or Co-Directors.  To assist in finding a partner, consider the following:

  • Brainstorm people you already know who work in public interest organizations. Approach these people and ask them for information about potential partners.
  • Do some research to isolate those organizations that are already working on the issues in which you are interested. Google, google, google!
  • Contact other students (T&IP, past working group leaders, CILP research assistants) to learn more about the organization they worked for  and  other organizations that they may have developed connections with. (To obtain up-to-date contact information for past students, please contact the Assistant Director of the CILP.
  • Speak with the Assistant Director or Co-Directors of the CILP about possible contacts or ideas they may have.

Project Supervisor/Lawyer Supervisor:  Most often, the project supervisor will be a staff person at the partner organization.   If this person is not a lawyer, you will be required to find an appropriate lawyer supervisor.   Your partner may be able to assist by recommending an appropriate supervisor, or you may contact CILP for some ideas.

Contributing to the CILP:  All Working Groups are expected to contribute more broadly to the CILP.  For example, leaders are required to contribute a substantive article to the CILP website. Proposals should highlight other ways you believe the Working Group might contribute to the CILP (for example, through future internships, clinic projects, etc.).

Sample Proposal (Based on the 2014-2015 Working Group Project)

Group Title: Visual Representation of the relative Commitment to Transparency of the Major Canadian Wireless Carriers

Group Leaders:  Albert Smith (2L) and Beth Jones (2L).
Albert has an existing interest in privacy law. He is currently working as a research assistant at CILP, during the summer between his 1L and 2L year, which includes writing an analysis of a recent Supreme Court of Canada case involving the use of personal information.  The analysis will be posted on the CILP blog.  Albert also has some web skills.  Before coming to law school, he worked for an independent publisher, where he helped to maintain the website and created new webpages from existing templates, to announce new promotions and sales.

Beth also has an interest in technology and privacy law. In the spring of her 1L year, she served as a bench clerk for the 2014 Grand Moot Court competition, in which she had to research recent case law on telecommunications and the use of metadata. In addition, Beth has a demonstrated ability to synthesize information, implement projects, and meet deadlines.  During university, she spent summers as a production assistant on film shoots.  In that capacity she summarized long, complex contracts to identify the company’s commitments, and helped an assistant director to create a calendar for a film crew, and keep the crew on schedule as they gathered footage from multiple locations around a city.

Issue:  Wireless carriers collect a great deal of personal information in the course of providing services to consumers. Privacy legislation sets a “floor” regarding the treatment of such information, and what consumers must be told about this treatment. However, it does not necessarily identify best practices, or capture every issue of concern. This project tackles the treatment of personal information from a transparency standpoint, looking at key areas to determine (1) what major wireless carriers tell the public regarding their treatment of personal information, and (2) how that compares with how they, ideally, should be treating that information and/or communicating about their practices regarding personal information and privacy.

Partnership Organization:  IXmaps
IXmaps is a project based out of UofT’s Faculty of Information and created by Professor Andrew Clement.  It is a two-part project that 1) maps the route(s) that data packets take across the internet, with surveillance and other ‘interesting’ sites highlighted along the way; and 2) provides transparency and privacy ratings of Canadian internet service providers, which includes wireless carriers. A letter of support from Professor Clement is attached.

Proposed Project

  • Goals:  The primary goal of this project is to create a visual representation allowing for easy comparison of how transparent each of Canada’s “big three” wireless carriers (Bell, Rogers, and Telus) and their main extension brands (Virgin, Fido, and Rogers) are with regard to their treatment of personal information, and to post this representation on the CILP and IXmaps websites. IXmaps created a chart rating Canadian ISPs on their privacy policies last year, but is looking for help to improve the criteria for its ratings and for outside assistance reviewing, understanding, and explaining what the privacy policies actually say.
  • Expected Outcomes: The working group will help update IXmaps’ existing transparency criteria and clarify the rationale behind the possible scores on each measure, i.e. what a company must do to earn a give score. The group will then evaluate target companies’ publicly available statements about privacy to produce a visual chart that will rate them on their transparency on privacy issues and allow for easy comparison between companies.
  • Means: The project will be divided into three phases:  1) developing a criteria document; 2) reviewing the privacy policies and associated information; and 3) creating a visual representation.  First, the working group will review IXmaps’ criteria from the last evaluation to see where there is room for improvement and updates.  For example, we have noticed that IXmaps does not explain why it rewards a full star, half star, or no star for its criteria. We will then write a new criteria document that will be posted online so that the ISPs can know what they’re being evaluated on.  Second, we will review the wireless carriers’ privacy policies to see whether they comply with the criteria. Individual members will make note of their findings and the group will check them over to make sure the reasoning is clear.  Third, we will work with IXmaps to update the chart from last year’s evaluation to include our new findings and post it online.
  • Work Plan:
    Note: While IXmaps rates all Canadian ISPs, the working group will limit its review to wireless carriers to ensure we can deliver a thoughtful and diligently completed product to IXmaps.
  • October and November – Following initial group meetings to explain the project, the group would meet with IXmaps and the group’s lawyer supervisor to review last year’s criteria, look for room for improvement, and revise criteria document. Final criteria document due November 30th.
    • Note: Individual members will be assigned to review different criteria and check each other’s work
  • December – collect privacy policies by December 31st.  This is based on IXmaps’ requirement that we take ‘snapshots’ of ISPs’ privacy policies by the end of the year.  Individual working group members are going to save time and date stamped privacy policies for later review.
  • January – Review privacy policies individually and as a group to rate wireless carriers. The group will meet before the end of January to compare notes and develop a final list of ratings by January 31st.
  • February/March – Develop / Update the chart with IXmaps.  The group will work with IXmaps to create an updated chart, including an explanation of unexpected findings, anything the group did differently from IXmaps, and notes on room for improvement, in time for IXmaps’ launch of its annual report in March.  (Tentatively, February 28th).

Lawyer Supervisor:  Since IXmaps does not have any lawyers, Professor Simon Stern has agreed to supervise the group.  Professor Stern has expressed an interest in simplifying and rating privacy policies in a visual chart.  The group leaders would meet with Professor Stern at least once during each phase of the project. A letter from Professor Stern is attached.

Project Budget:  We estimate the project budget would be $150.  We would like to provide the group with pizza lunches at the beginning and end of the project ($50 each) and defray printing costs if students need to print out privacy policies to make them easier to read ($50).