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May 12, 2020

Work Product Protection

Unlike the attorney-client privilege, which protects a private relationship in order to promote accurate legal advice and compliance with the law, the work product doctrine promotes the adversarial process, by protecting an attorney's preparatory work for litigation.

Unlike the attorney-client privilege, which protects a private relationship in order to promote accurate legal advice and compliance with the law, the work product doctrine promotes the adversarial process, by protecting an attorney's preparatory work for litigation. In other words, the attorney-client privilege focuses on encouraging the client to communicate freely with the lawyer. The work product doctrine is designed to encourage careful and thorough trial preparation by the lawyer.

 

Elements of Work-Production Protection

Work product protection has three required elements including: 

1. documents or tangible things;

Compilations of selected documents constitute work product. Lawyer-selected compilations of documents for use in preparing a witness for deposition have been recognized as opinion work product.

2. prepared in anticipation of litigation; 

There are two aspects of the “prepared in anticipation of litigation” requirement: causation and reasonable anticipation. To meet the causation element, the work product claimant must show that the anticipation of litigation caused the preparation of the material. To meet the “reasonable anticipation” test, there must be a “substantial and significant threat of litigation” shown by objective facts that reveal “an identifiable resolve to litigate. 

3. prepared by or for a party or by or for a party's representative.

Whether work-production protection applies if litigation materials is prepared by a non-attorney. Some courts have held that unless an attorney is directing, controlling, or requesting the non-attorney's efforts, the materials produced are not protected as work product. While other courts have accepted and have found “involvement of an attorney”.

Opinion work product

Opinion work product consists of the mental impressions, subjective evaluations, strategy, opinions, legal theories, and conclusions of counsel, and the subjective evaluations and mental impressions of counsel's agents. It is clear that opinion work product enjoys almost absolute protection.

Fact work product

Fact work product includes “everything other than the ‘mental impressions, conclusions, opinions or legal theories’ of the attorney”. It encompasses such things as photographs, sketches, questionnaires, indices (electronic and paper), surveys, financial analyses, computer databases, and diagrams. However, the facts contained in the work product material are not subject to protection and are discoverable.


Rudy Bui

Rudy Bui is Scholar, Young Lawyer, and Member of Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA 2015) and International Bar Association (IBA 2017). In addition, Rudy Bui is also Member of Ho Chi Minh Bar Association, Vietnam Bar Federation, Vietnam Business Lawyers' Club (VBLC), Mentee of Young ICCA - Mentoring Program 2016-2017.



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