Oddly, I was asked whether pro bono work is still considered professional advice, implying immediately that it carried some lesser responsibility on the part of an adviser simply because they were not earning revneue from it.
Why would pro bono clients deserve any lesser standards of ethical behaviour, professional competency or application of skill?
Furthermore; why would any adviser risk compromising their own reputation and professional standing by delivering sub-standard work or taking shortcuts when doing pro bono work? And finally; the legal definition (here at least) of what constitutes regulated advice doesn’t include any wording along the lines of “you’re off the hook if they don’t pay you for it”. On the contrary, you are clearly responsibile for your advice whether you get paid or not.
When doing pro bono work there is not a lesser standard applying to the professional. A client is a client, regardless of the fee level in the engagement….even if that fee level is “zero”. A client is entitled to the same levels of professional care, diligence and skill that a professional would bring to any commercial engagement.
Ultimately the pro bono concept is about providing a public service, or giving some of one’s professional expertise and time. It is a commitment to using ones expertise to improve society by helping those who need it, but could not normally perhaps access professional help.
Pro bono clients ARE entitled to expect the same behaviour, and are entitled to the same protection – including full legal liability on the part of the adviser – as any other client. Whether the work provided was done for $1,000 per hour, or $100 per hour, or $0 per hour is an irrelevance.
A professional standard is just that: it is a standard regardless of the commercial agreement underpinning it.
Anything less brings the ethics of the profession itself into question.