Attorney fee bills may or may not be privileged, depending on whether they convey information for the purpose of legal representation, such as informing the client of the nature and amount of work being performed in a currently active, pending case. The attorney-client privilege does not protect to every single communication transmitted confidentially between lawyer and client. Rather, the privilege protects those communications that bear some relationship to the attorney‘s provision of legal consultation. Generally, attorney fee invoices do not relate sufficiently to the provision of legal consultation to be privileged. While a client‘s fees have some ancillary relationship to legal consultation, an invoice listing amounts of fees is not communicated for the purpose of legal consultation. However, attorney fee bills may be privileged if they convey information for the purpose of legal representation, such as informing the client of the nature and amount of work being performed in a pending case. Also aggregate information about legal expenditures in pending litigation over the course of a quarter or year may be privileged. When a legal matter remains pending and active, the privilege encompasses everything in an invoice, including the amount of aggregate fees, since an uptick in expenditures might reveal investigative efforts or trial strategy. Thus, the contents of an invoice are privileged only if they either communicate information for the purpose of legal consultation or risk exposing information that was communicated for such a purpose. This latter category includes any invoice that reflects work in active and ongoing litigation.
California Supreme Court (Cuéllar, J.; Cantil-Sakauye, C.J., Werdegar & Corrigan, JJ., dissenting); December 29, 2016; 2016 WL 7602131