Public Affairs: Soap Box - Dominic Church, managing director, Westminster Advisers

The 'right to be heard' is a guiding principle for public affairs professionals. But an accusation often levelled at consultancies is that we only work for corporate interests, which can afford to raise a case with policymakers.

This is an unfair characterisation because many consultancies spend a significant amount of time working for charities for free. Many have pro bono clients permanently on their books or run dedicated corporate donation programmes. We are no exception.

But our sector should standardise its pro bono work as part of moves to put it on a more established footing. Otherwise we will be seen as hired guns, who are here today and gone tomorrow.

Other professions are way ahead of us. UK lawyers gave free advice to charities worth £400m in 2009. They can be proud of the Attorney General's Pro Bono Committee, the Bar Pro Bono Unit, Law Works and the National Pro Bono Week and Conference.

The proposed new Public Affairs Council would be in an excellent position to offer a similar approach to working for good causes free of charge. Alongside creating openness and transparency, encouraging consultancies to commit to working pro bono should be central to its work. Otherwise our claims to the right to be heard may start to sound hollow.

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