Professional and Client Relationship…. The central issue in the professional and client relationship is the allocation of responsibility and authority in decision making-who makes what decisions.
One may view the professional-client relationship as one in which the client has most authority and responsibility in decision making, the professional being his employee; one in which the professional and client are equals, either dealing at arm’s length or at a more personal level; or as one in which the professional, in different degrees, has the primary role. Each of these conceptions has been suggested by some authors as the appropriate ethical model of the relationship. Each has some common sense support. In this article, we shall explore the following models of professional and client relationship: ⇓
1 Agency Model
According to the agency model, the client has most of the authority and responsibility for decision making. The position of the profession is that of an expert that acts at the direction or instruction of the client with the objective of protecting the interest of the client or facilitating the achievement of the client’s goal. By this model, professionals are hired by clients to perform specific tasks. This is particularly true of lawyers, who always act for and on behalf of clients. It is for this reason that some people might want to describe a lawyer as the mouth piece of the client.
There are two principles underlying the agency model:
- the first is that a professional is neutral or detached from the client’s purposes;and
- the second is that the professional is an aggressive partisan of the client working to advance the client’s ends. The combination of these two principles culminates in what is known as the ideology of advocacy, which is applicable to lawyers, physicians, architects and even
However, there are a number of problems with the agency model. The first is that professionals have obligations to several clients that would restrict the extent to which they can act on behalf of any particular client in the pursuit of the client’s interests. Second is that the focus of this view appears too narrow to be a general account of the professional-client relationship. This is because the model is most often appealed to when there is a need to defend or protect a professional from the attribution of a client’s sin. For instance, a lawyer or a physician would want to adopt this model when representing or treating a person that is well known for certain illegal or immoral activities.
A third problem with the agency model is that it is inconsistent with the emphasis professionals lay on their independence of judgment. By virtue of their training and competence, professionals should make objective decisions, but this feature is ignored by the agency model that suggests that professionals should do whatever they are directed to do by their clients.
A fourth problem with the agency model is that it is too extreme or strong. This is in the sense that as ethically free and responsible individuals, and for the sake of their own freedom and the protection of others, professionals should not totally abdicate authority and responsibility of decision making to clients. At least professionals, except in some extreme cases of dire need such as medical emergencies, professionals have the right to either accept or reject clients. They also have the right to terminate professional relationships that have been instituted earlier.
2 Friendship Model
The friendship model suggests that the relationship between a professional and a client is quite personal. This is based on the fact that professionals and clients have a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation. It is as though they are involved in a mutual venture or partnership. For instance, the relationship between a physician and a patient may be described as a cooperative effort between friends to resolve the patient’s health challenge. This model also emphasises the fact that professionals sometimes devote special attention and care to clients the way friends take each other’s interests seriously in a personal way, thereby giving them more weight than those of other persons.
However, there are quite a number of dissimilarities between a friendship relationship and the professional-client relationship. One of these is that the professional-client relationship is usually in only one direction: the professional is concerned about the interest of the client while the latter is usually not concerned about the interest of the former. In a friendship relationship, the concern for interests is normally mutual.
Second is that friendship is normally between two people who are more or less equals, and professionals and clients are not equals A third problem is that the affective commitment of friendship is normally lacking between a professional and client. Professionals only accept a client upon the payment or at the least agreement to pay a specified fee.
With regards to the fact that professionals pay special attention to the interests of clients, it is to be noted that such special attention is not predicated on any sense of friendship but on the fact that the role of a professional is essentially to provide specific services to clients, and the acceptance of a client is sufficient reason to justify such special attention.