Whether free or paid, legal advice should only be dispensed by an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which the legal issue in question occurred. An attorney licensed only in the state of Georgia, for example, should give advice only about cases under Georgia's jurisdiction. Non-attorneys should never dispense legal advice, because by doing so, they commit the crime of unauthorized practice of law, or UPL.
A lawyer can choose to give legal advice for free, a practice which is known as "pro bono." According to Georgetown Law, every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and should aspire to give at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services a year.
In a criminal case, a defendant who cannot afford a lawyer is guaranteed legal counsel by the U.S. Constitution. When an attorney is appointed to represent an indigent defendant, the advice the attorney gives to the defendant is free. The attorney has an ethical duty to represent the appointed indigent client with the same care as a paying client.
There are also legal aid clinics that exist for the sole purpose of providing legal assistance free of charge to people who cannot afford a lawyer. Legal aid clinics may be staffed by either volunteer attorneys or by law students under the supervision of licensed attorneys.
In each of these situations when legal advice is free, the quality of the advice is expected to be the same as it would be for a paying client. Failure to meet this standard is malpractice, for which an attorney can be disbarred and lose his license.