Work product privilege: Who's the 'attorney'—the law firm or the lawyer?

A California Court of Appeal was recently asked to determine whether a law firm or a former attorney at the firm was the holder of the attorney work product privilege. California's civil attorney work product privilege is codified in Section 2018.030 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Subsection (a) provides absolute protection to any "writing that reflects an attorney's impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories." However, it does not define "attorney." As the court of appeal acknowledged, the plain text of the law didn't answer the question before the court because the statute is silent about who is the holder of the privilege. In answering the question, the court of appeal instead relied on the statute's purpose, legislative intent, and public policy.

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