318: Professional Ethics
Outline of Bayles Essay
What is the professional-client relationship?
Five possible types of
professional relationships. They are distinguished according to
allocation of responsibility & authority.
Ask this question: does the client allow the
professional to decide? Or does the professional advise, and the client
gives informed consent? Or is the professional a "hired gun," directed
by the employer/client?
C = client and P = professional
the professional as "hired gun"
P does what C instructs P to do for C.
CLIENT is responsible for selecting a goal, and
PROFESSIONAL does not evaluate that goal. P is there to
advance C's interests as C sees them.
But this can't always apply (e.g., a financial audit)
and it SHOULD NOT, because C often seeks wrongful 3rd
party harm, and because it ignores the role of
C and P enter into a legally enforceable agreement about division of responsibilities for
Since this requires free entry into the contract,
contracts presuppose a high level of knowledge for both
parties. So this cannot hold if the tasks require high
levels of expert knowledge, which is the actual root of
most professional-client relationships.
FRIENDSHIP (also called AFFINITY)
– Clients often expect the relationship to be a
"special" relationship, in which P works to help C in
the way that one friend helps another.
However, this is really a false understanding by
clients. It's P's duty to support C. But P gives this
support because they are a client, and does so for the
money, not because of who C is. But our friends are our
friends because they are
special in our lives. Someone who charges you money to
talk to you is NOT in a friendship relationship. (A
friend would not work against another person if they are
also their friend, yet P would willingly help people
C, if they were clients first!)
Built on recognition that P and C are not equals: P
knows more then C. Therefore all important
tasks done by P (or all except implementation of a plan that P
creates). P should treat C the way a parent treats a
child: looking out for them, but making all the
A test: outside of the professional-client relationship, when do we surrender autonomy to this degree?
When a person is unable to do so for themselves.
However, there is an aspect of the professional-client
relationship where C can do
so, and should, and that is
balancing the competing interests that are in play in
pursuing a goal or adopting a course of action toward
it. FREQUENTLY, P's advice is in conflict with C's other
interests, and P has no expertise in balancing those
And, in studies, professionals routinely
underestimate the value that
clients place on their own goals and situation, and
settle for less than the clients want.
The goal is informed consent. All decisions rest with the C, but C relies
heavily on P’s expert judgment to analyze, guide,
etc. P proposes, but C must consent. It is
P's job to understand C's goals and interests, to
propose steps to secure those goals and interests. The
greater the knowledge difference between C and P due to
P's training, the greater the responsibility to advance
C's interests in offering choices to C.
relationship is appropriate in MOST situations where C is an intelligent
adult. There should be a good
reason before having any other kind of relationship. Normally,
even when C is a child, a second adult guardian should take the place of
C in a fiduciary relationship with P.