A lot of design professionals simply do not know the risk or understand they are playing with fire when providing pro bono services. Architects and Engineers (A&Es) who provide pro bono services are often motivated by a desire to give back to their communities and help those in need. However, even with the best of intentions, these professionals must be aware of the risks associated with providing such services.

Pro bono projects, at a minimum, carry similar risks and exposures to liability claims as those found in fee-based projects. When working on a pro bono project, A&Es have a responsibility to ensure the design and construction are safe and comply with applicable laws and regulations. If something goes wrong, the client may not be able to allocate the appropriate funds to remedy the problem and seek out other avenues, potentially by making a claim against the design professional, to resolve an issue that may arise on a project.

If you’re an A&E, it’s important to clearly define the scope of your services and set appropriate expectations with your clients to mitigate this risk. It’s also important to communicate openly and honestly with clients, involve them in the decision-making process, and be transparent about any challenges or limitations.

Having an appropriate contract in place that outlines the scope of the work, and any limitations or exclusions, is crucial in managing client expectations. The contract should also include provisions that help protect you from potential risks or liabilities. Typically, you’re on the defensive when negotiating contracts with a client in ensuring they can appropriately manage risks. However, in a pro bono setting, you can negotiate from a place of leverage in protecting yourself from future risks and liability.

This can be done by artfully crafting limitation of liability and indemnification provisions that protect you. Limitation of liability clauses can be drafted to limit the amount of damages that you could be held liable for in the event of a lawsuit or claim. The limitation of liability could be based on a specific dollar amount to protect from excessive or unexpected liability exposure. Indemnification clauses could require the client to indemnify, defend, and hold you harmless for any losses or damages that result from the client’s actions or negligence.

Providing pro bono services can be a rewarding way to give back and make a positive impact in your community. Limitation of liability, indemnification, and clear a clear scope of services are all provisions that can be used to provide an additional layer of protection for you if you’re pursuing pro bono projects.

It’s also essential to collaborate with legal professionals to ensure the contract is properly drafted and provides the necessary protection for you, to be aware of the risks involved, and take appropriate steps to manage them. By setting clear expectations, communicating openly, and carefully planning and executing pro bono projects, you can help ensure your efforts have a positive impact on your community while minimizing your exposure to risk.

Interested in learning more? Our A&E team is full of experts who can help you. All you have to do is reach out to us.