In County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors et al. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles, 2015 DJDAR 4085, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled that attorney invoices may be confidential communications and are immune from production during discovery.
The attorney‑client privilege is fundamental to the practice of law. It encourages the client to be honest with his attorney for the purposes of obtaining the best legal advice and advocacy. Such protection of communications between an attorney and client foster an environment where the client may divulge all relevant information, which he may have otherwise withheld without this safeguard.
But, just how far does this privilege reach? In County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors et al. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles, a California Court of Appeal clarified an issue not previously decided by California courts, holding that attorney invoices are confidential communications.
This may be surprising since many practitioners would likely conclude that billing invoices are not the type of confidential communications reflecting significant decisions with potentially lasting legal consequences. What made these bills different? Nothing, but they were communicated in the course of an attorney‑client relationship. In its decision, the court broadly interpreted Evidence Code section 952, which defines “confidential communications” in the context of attorney‑client privilege, and determined that attorney‑client communication does not have to include legal advice or opinion in order to be protected communications.
The court explained that “…the proper focus in the privilege inquiry is not whether the communication contains an attorney’s opinion or advice, but whether the relationship is one of attorney‑client and whether the communication was confidentially transmitted in the course of that relationship.”
Since the invoices were transferred in the course of the attorney‑client relationship, the court ruled that they fell within the zone of privacy. Thus, under this recent precedent, attorney invoices are confidential communications and immune from production during discovery.