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I'm trying to tie up the last loose end from my dissolution. My ex's attorney, who I contacted a week ago, told me she's so busy that she does not intend to contact my ex until her bigger cases are out of the way and she gets settled in with a new office assistant. She seemed to gloat on the fact that it'll take longer to get a hearing than to wait until she has time. She knows that if she drags it out, I stand to face minor financial damages and harm to my credit.

Is the attorney's behavior ethical, particularly in terms of communicating w/ clients over material concerns? Also, I have a lurking suspicion that my ex didn't pay her.

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In jurisdictions where the ABA's model rules have been adopted, an attorney "shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, see Rule 4.4. But here, it's unlikely the delay would amount to a violation of ethical standards unless it drags on for a lengthy period of time.

Also, the attorney typically does owe her client—note, not a third party—a duty of diligence, which implicates timeliness. In many jurisdictions, lawyers "shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness," see Rule 1.3, and lawyers "shall make reasonable efforts to expedite litigation," see Rule 3.2. Nevertheless, lots of attorneys are sanctioned for neglecting client matters, even under this fairly open-ended reasonableness standard, although that's often for not doing the work at all (rather than for simply being slow).

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