Episode Notes

In this episode, Sara talks with social security disability attorney, Sarah Soucie Eyberg, about her sobriety journey while practicing law and what being a sober lawyer means for her.

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  • 13:09. Acknowledging your well-being while practicing law
  • 22:58. Sara’s journey with sobriety
  • 31:26. How to improve your well-being and mental health



Announcer  (00:03):

Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts

Jennifer (00:35):

Hi, I’m Jennifer Whigham

Stephanie (00:36):

And I’m Stephanie Everett. And this is episode 396 of the Lawyerist podcast. Part of the legal talk network. Today we spoke with Sarah Soucie Eyberg about her sobriety journey while practicing law

Jennifer (00:49):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Albatross Legal Workspaces, Postali and Posh Virtual Receptionists. We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support stay tuned. We’ll tell you a little bit more about them later on.

Stephanie. It’s been a week, an interesting week in the world, and I know you specifically, and let’s be clear. I am talking about when the Supreme court dropped their latest opinion and you and I were talking about, and I even texted you at the time kind of in the middle of it being like, Hmm. But I would love to hear your story about where you were when you heard it, what you were doing. I mean, what was going on with you?

Stephanie (01:30):

Yeah. And I guess there’s a point to the story. So hang on. yeah,

Jennifer (01:33):

There is a point we’re not just, you know, chatting there. There’s a whole point.

Stephanie (01:36):

So I am still involved in my sorority that I joined in college and a lot, a lot of people are like, oh, you are. And it’s like, yes, I, I am. It is a leadership organization for women. And I have found my post-graduate experience to be so rich and rewarding and much more meaningful than just the short time I was in, in college. We actually have a nonprofit arm that does really great work for leadership, for women and scholarships for women. And so I sit on the board of directors for that organization and we were at our national convention that happens every three years. And I was very fortunate, grateful that I actually was going to present, or I did present to the convention body about my story and about why I give financially to our foundation. And so the short story is we had just done a run through of the speech. I was giving my talk during a luncheon on Friday. I had just finished kind of doing the run through of my speech when I came back to the table, picked up my phone and of course saw the breaking news because it was by that point everywhere. And it was weird because like I was in this very like different world, like, you know, you kind of in convention mode and you’re at a conference and I wasn’t really paying attention to like the outside world, but then this, you know, story hit and it, no matter what side of the issue you’re on, like it’s a jarring thing that happens, right? Yeah. Like you’re going to react and I felt that. And so one of my sisters and I ended up kind of just going on a little bit of a walk where like we needed some air, we needed some space.

Stephanie (03:15):

And in that conversation, I realized I was about to have the microphone in just a few minutes. I was being brought up to the stage to speak. And I had a decision to make in that moment of, do I mention this decision? Do I talk about it? Like, how does this impact me? And what do we do with that? Like, we are lawyers, we are leaders in our profession. I was being honored that day as a leader in this organization. And what responsibility do I have? Yeah. And in that moment, also, as you can appreciate thinking through, like everyone keeps saying, like, this is a political issue and, and organizations are nervous about making political statements or what are perceived to be political statements. Like, is this an issue we should even be talking about? Is this the right platform for it? Is this the right form for it?

Stephanie (04:12):

And so all of those thoughts are flooding my head. And, and I can imagine for our listeners as business owners, you might be thinking about that too. Like, does my law firm speak out on this issue? Or, you know, should we take a position? Will we alienate clients? Will we upset people? Like these are hard decisions as business owners that we’re thinking through and how do we talk about it? And I’ll be honest as a owner of Lawyerist, I’m not actually sure how everyone on our team feels like, I think I know, but I’ve been, I feel like I have to be careful as the boss, like, am I allowed to ask or not ask? So, I mean, I haven’t, yeah. I haven’t asked, I think I said I’ve made space that if anyone wants to just talk to me about it, like, I am all up for the discussion as you know, because I do like talking about things, but I don’t want people to feel compelled or like I’m their employer and they have to think the way I think, and right.

Stephanie (05:11):

Like these are complicated issues and times we live in. Yep. So I don’t know. I just, I guess we wanted to say that today, like, and yet I said I’m about to get the microphone, like literally so yeah. I rewrote my speech in my head. I didn’t tell anyone. I was like, it’s one of those moments where I was like, I’m not gonna ask for permission because, oh, I’m just gonna go with this. And I didn’t go too far. Like I told my story, I explained why I was supporting this organization financially and why I believed in the story. And the, the vision of this organization of our sorority is to empower women to change the world, which I am very passionate about. I’ve done a lot of research and I truly believe like if you wanna change the world, empower women. Like in third world countries, it’s been shown that women are the ones who like educate the children and feed the village and cloth the village and all the things. And so there’s like actually research that if we support women, like they can change their whole village. And so, yeah, this is a mission that’s very close to my heart. And so then I was able to sort of pivot at the end of my speech and say, you know, I still have dreams and my dreams are for women in this organization. You know, I wanna empower you to change the world and to do that. We need more of our women in the C-suite. And then I said on the Supreme court

Jennifer (06:32):

Yes. And

Stephanie (06:32):

In public office . And as soon as I said, like on Supreme, the Supreme court, they all got it. They knew what I was saying. Yeah. But also it was true. Like, I do want more of these women on the Supreme court. So I think in that small moment, I hope I was able to use the microphone. I was able to use the platform to empower women and to share, to tell people it’s okay to say something. Maybe I could have gone further with my statements, but maybe I didn’t need to. Right. Like maybe just the fact that I stood up and said something and acknowledged that moment and the way I did. Yeah. And I was so honored that so many women after the talk was over and the lunch was over, everybody was coming up to me and, and I had so many come up to me and just thank me and give me a hug and just say, that was perfect. And, and I don’t know, like I St you know, we second guess all the things I was like, could I have said more? Should I have said more, but at least I took a moment.

Jennifer (07:32):

Yes. And you can start small too, right? Like if this is not normally in your personality to speak up for things, you don’t have to go straight from zero to burn it all down. You know, you can start in these incremental ways, get your confidence in speaking out, and then start saying more, not to say you don’t have the confidence cuz you do no, you had to switch at the moment, which was a little different, but just to speak up, you know, there’s always that phrase, you know, speak the truth, even if your voice shakes. And I think about that a lot, like speak the truth, even if it’s small, even if you’re, if it’s to one other person, even if you don’t think it’s enough in the time, it just builds on each other. And I think that’s really important. And that’s what you did.

Stephanie (08:18):

Oh, thanks. I tried, I guess I just would say this to our listeners. Like I don’t have all the answers, you know, I’ve been reading a lot, listening to lot. I, I certainly have feelings, strong feelings, but what I do know as a lawyer, you know, we talk about being an officer of the court. I do feel very strongly about our Supreme court as an institution and the couple of opinions that have come out in a very short period of time. And the way we see them use precedent or not use precedent to make decisions is alarming to me. And I do know this, whatever way you come down on the, the issues that are being decided about. We’ll put that aside for a minute. I care very much about the institution of the Supreme court and our judicial system, the role that we play in our larger democracy.

Stephanie (09:09):

And I do think as lawyers, we need to be leading that discussion. Like we understand these issues and the ramifications better than most. And we need to be leading those discussions. We need to be talking to people who aren’t lawyers about it. So they understand. And I think we need people smarter than me. Like I heard a proposal this morning on how they would redo the Supreme court. And again, like, I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out, but I know we need to be talking about it and we need to be, you know, this is where our bar associations and all the organizations we’re in need to speak up because this does impact us and our profession in a profound way. And we need, we need to be the leaders here. So maybe that’s my soapbox. Like whatever way your issue is, you should care about the institution of the court. And I hope that you’ll use your voice when you have the opportunity.

Jennifer (09:58):

Absolutely. And now here is our Sarah’s conversation with Sarah Soucie Eyberg

Sara Soucie Eyberg (10:05):

Hi everyone. My name is Sarah Soucie Eyberg I am a social security disability attorney with a solo practice just outside the twin cities in Minnesota.

Sara Muender  (10:16):

Well, it’s so nice to have you on you and I were chatting before we hit record, and we were talking a little bit about your journey and how you’ve gotten to where you are now. And we all know you as a beloved member of our Lawyerist lab community, which is our paid coaching program. And we’ve all had the pleasure of working with you at some point, and watching you implement some really positive things into your firm practice and into your business and watching you grow. But I want you now to kind of take the audience back since this is maybe one of their first times hearing from you and take them back to maybe when you started your journey and kind of tell us about some of the struggles and challenges that you had, and then we can kind of get into where you are now.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (11:09):

Thank you. Yeah, so I, I actually started my solo firm right before the pandemic kind of before we knew that was gonna be a thing that we thought was gonna last for six weeks before we could get back into things. I had been doing contract social security, disability hearings for a big company based out of Texas for like eight years at that point. And it was great because I have four kids and they were all little and they had a lot of needs for their mom. And I really struggled well paying for childcare. To be honest, when I, when my twins are first born, the cost for infant childcare was gonna be basically what my take home pay was. And so I had already started to do some of this contract work and my husband and I talked about it and decided, you know, if I left full-time work, I could still do contract work, but we’d have a lot less childcare costs than if I were to stay working full-time childcare costs. And, and that kind of thing is a whole other topic that it is a lot of time talking

Sara Muender  (12:10):

About. Yeah, we can have a whole other podcast episode on just being a mom or a parent and owning your own business and how you balance those struggles, but that’s a part of this.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (12:19):

Yeah. And I really liked that I could be with my kids almost all the time, but I could also bring home money for my family. And so the contract work was great, but you know, just before the pandemic got started, I had been feeling professionally, just a little tired and bored and ready for the next thing, really feeling like I needed that kind of push for some growth. And so when the pandemic hit and a lot of contract work started to stay within the firms, cause they didn’t have to travel the hearings anymore. It was a really good push for me to start my own firm. And I really am so grateful to the Lawyerist and the Lawyerist coaching for that. I really felt like I had a ton of support and a place I could ask questions and felt like I didn’t make a lot of the missteps that a lot of people maybe do when they first start their own firm and I didn’t feel quite as alone.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (13:09):

And so I’ve always been really grateful for that experience. And I talk about the things that I’ve learned through the Lawyerist a lot when I’m talking to other attorneys about small businesses or law students that are looking to maybe work in a small firm. So I’m really grateful for that. But a big piece of things for me is this idea of wellbeing, which we know is not simply the absence of illness, right? Some people think, well, I’m not sick. That doesn’t mean that you’re well, and I know some, we have people listening from all over the country, but one thing we have in Minnesota is this organization called Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. And it’s an organization that’s based on helping attorneys and being a resource, a free resource for attorneys and a confidential one that are looking for some counseling or help with mental health issues, but also substance use or other addiction like gambling addiction type issues.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (14:07):

And in Minnesota, they provide free counseling. They have case managers, they have partnerships with psychiatrists and counselors to try and get help for attorneys. But a lot of what they spend their time doing is education and showing up at bar association events to help get the visibility there. And I think remove some of the stigma or fear around reaching out to an organization like that. And prior to doing the contract work, when I, when I was pregnant with my twins, I was actually working for the Minnesota state bar association as a staff member in their recruitment and retention and sort of marketing department. And it was great because the firm that I had been at before that was a, was a smaller firm with no health insurance and no maternity leave. And, and none of that. And when I switched from the firm to the bar association, I got paid the same amount and worked about half as many hours.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (15:03):

So it was a good move for me. Yeah. But I used to see LCL at all of these events and I knew them from law school too. And they had the same exhibitor at most of the events. And part of my role was to also be an exhibitor. And then when we would have bar association conventions, LCL would be there as well. And I, I always really liked their director and would spend a lot of time talking to her, but I always felt guilty cuz you know, I knew at the social hour I was gonna have some drinks and really en enjoy my time that way. So I, I always felt like like Joan was watching, like I had to, you know, I had to, had to make sure I wasn’t over overindulging and, and anything like that. And I felt a little guilty like, okay, well, great day exhibiting, I’ll see you at the social Joan, you know? Yeah.

Sara Muender  (15:49):

Well it sounds like just to interject for a second, it sounds like you really believed in what they were doing and you really supported what it was that they were doing, but maybe there was this like a little bit of internal confliction between what you were doing in your life. Yeah. And maybe like the mission of what this organization was doing, but I’m curious kind of how that coincided or how that collided

Sara Soucie Eyberg (16:14):

Maybe. Yeah. So I, I really did, I really do do believe in LCL and the mission. And I think that we have an ethical duty as attorneys to make sure that we’re, that we’re well and that we’re competent so we can serve our clients. And we have a lot of responsibility and the practice of law can be really stressful and not everybody does a great job managing it. And I’m sure a lot of the listeners, either law students or lawyers remember lost students who got themselves a reputation for overindulging. I was not one of those, but I, you know, I was always where the social was too. The other piece to my personality is being really, really extroverted. And so I was always doing the social thing rather than not rather than, but usually rather than some people doing the studying thing, I spent a lot of my energy in law school connecting with other people and networking because I, I knew I was not gonna be a, a top of the class student.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (17:09):

And I knew that, you know, if I worked 20 to 30 more hours a week, I could probably bump myself up maybe 10 places in, in my, in my class ranking. But I knew if I actually put that energy into organizational leadership and getting out and meeting people that that would serve me a lot better. And it did, but a lot of attorney and law school law, student social events are centered around alcohol. They happen at bars. They happen at happy hours. They happen at networking events with tickets to the bar. And so I think it’s a huge part of the culture. And so there was a point for me, it’s kind of funny, my husband and I had done a Whole 30, which if, if you’re not familiar is like no sugar, no dairy, no grains, no anything and no alcohol . And, and it’s like a challenge, is it a 30 day challenge or yeah, yes.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (18:05):

It’s a 30 day challenge and it was great. We felt awesome. It is so labor intensive that it’s not really sustainable as a lifestyle change for us.. But other than when I was pregnant with my kids, that was kind of the longest period I had that I was really strictly sober since I came of age to drink. And so I think that combined with being a mom to young kids and just not getting out very often, and having this sort of lifestyle shift from being really independent and being able to do whatever we want to being at home most of the time and in, in home, most of the time it caused a shift in what would happen when I did have those occasions where I would go out and I’d be able to drink. So motherhood, especially young motherhood is very isolating for a lot of people.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (18:58):

And I was already doing this contract work where I would travel to a hearing site, talked to maybe a security guard and my disabled client and a judge and then drive home. And often it was several hours and it was a lot of alone time , which is, I mean, now looking back, it’s kind of great. And after having spent two plus years cooped up in a house with, you know, the rest of my family, I could use a little solo drive time, but yeah. At the time it was hard because I am so extroverted. Yeah. So because my kids were little and things weren’t virtual, I wasn’t seeing other people I wasn’t getting to do like the kind of bar association events that I did before the kids were little. And so I was getting less at that. So what would happen is when I would go to a convention or when I’d be at, you know, a social or a happy hour, I would have a, you know, the drinks that I would usually do.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (19:49):

But then my inhibitions would lower by the alcohol and my extroversion would just become amplified by the alcohol. And then it got to this point where I was just obnoxious, you know, and because of the feeling so good about getting to be around people , then I would drink more more, much more than I needed to, or really would do under normal circumstances. And I wanted to stay longer. And so I’d always be there. The like, I’d be like one of the last people to go. And then when we were at home, I realized I started to feel the need to have like a cocktail at home in order to just kind of decompress from all of the stressors of, you know, young kids and having this contract work and trying to yeah. Fit everything together. And so did you have four kids at that point? Yes. Yeah. Walter would’ve been let’s see. Yeah. Cuz Walter was born in 2016, so he would’ve been a yeah. Two year old and the twins would’ve been like maybe five. And

Sara Muender  (20:50):

This was before you started your law firm while you were still doing the contract

Sara Soucie Eyberg (20:53):

Work? Yes. Okay. Yep. So my kids were little, little, there wasn’t many opportunities for that kind of going out. Yeah. But I remember that year, that August I had been at a convention for my law fraternity and it’s always a lot of drinking at those things and that’s just the culture. It’s like business all day and then social events until the wee hours. And that’s where I started to notice. It didn’t even feel like my personality. I was just like just obnoxious just cuz of the combination of the alcohol and the, the extreme extroversion. And I just, it didn’t feel like me and then later that fall, I had actually been honored as the new lawyer of the year for the MSBA that year. We had whole full day conference and then the post-conference sort of social. And then I just stayed with some of the other staff and, and people and my husband couldn’t get ahold of me cuz I was not paying attention to my phone cuz I was having a great time with the people in front of me and he’s he got super worried.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (21:59):

He ended up having to have a friend come to our house so that he could drive to the cities where I was and check on me. And that was the last time I drank because I, I felt so terrible and humiliated, right. That like, and these are some of my closest friends who don’t judge me for it at all, but I couldn’t believe it. And I happened to know one of the case managers at LCL. He and I knew each other before he got sober. And certainly before I did in the context of like just being colleagues and I sent him a message, I was like, I think I need to be done with this and can you help me? Yeah. And he said, let’s talk tomorrow. And that’s what we did. And my dad is in recovery. He’s also an attorney and his dad was an alcoholic and he was, he’s very similar kind of trajectory to me, except for obviously he was not, obviously he was a lot older when he stopped drinking.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (22:58):

Okay. And so I kind of had this sort of example of this sobriety. He did the AA route and really, really felt strongly about that program. and so I reached out to him too and I said, Hey, here’s, here’s where I’m at with stuff. And I am not happy with like who I am right now. And here’s what I’m thinking about doing , he’s very pro AA, but I really struggled with just the label of an alcoholic. And I think part of it is because of the stigma, but part is cuz it just didn’t really feel like me. Yeah.

Sara Muender  (23:33):

What was it about that label that didn’t really fit

Sara Soucie Eyberg (23:37):

A few things one and this was kind of confirmed for me by the counselor that I worked with at LCL, who was the first person to tell me, you can quit drinking without identifying as an alcoholic. like, you don’t have to do that in order to stop doing this and a

Sara Muender  (23:56):

What a concept. Right.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (23:57):

I was so like floored by that because my dad was, and I love him and he has been such an inspiration and it’s so nice to have an example of someone who recognized this issue in their own life and was like, I don’t wanna be this. I don’t wanna be this for my kids. I don’t wanna be this for my career. I don’t wanna be this for my, you know, my grandkids but he was, he very much leaned into that identity of an alcoholic. And so I couldn’t relate to that right away. And I knew that he wanted that for me. And I just, I finally said, dad, like, I don’t, I need you to take a step back so that I can do this. Like how I need to do it for me. Right.

Sara Muender  (24:34):

It makes sense though, if I’m familiar with the AA program, I’ve had several family members go through it and I’ve been on that journey with them. And yeah, it’s like the first step in AA is admitting, admitting that you’re an alcoholic. And so they really do lean into that. Yeah. That admission and that identity and like stripping away all forms of self empowerment to change the situation is they have you lean into your higher power. And so I, I have watched, and I’ve coached so many women who have been in a similar situation as you who struggled. And it was like that black and white thinking of, well, I’m not quite like at the AA level. And I don’t know that I relate to that, but yeah, I want to make a change and I don’t wanna go down this potential path of like things getting worse. Yeah. So talk to us about what you did, what changed and sort of how that led into now, how you’re running your life and your firm.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (25:32):

Yeah. So, and which, by the way, if there are women listening to this that have that sort of thing, there’s this book called quit like a woman with the radical choice, not to drink in a something, something society, it’s a fantastic book that really is a kind of female experience focused, cuz there’s just, there’s different elements to that for women than there is for men. So I knew I wanted to just take a break and like not drink for a while because I didn’t like who I was when I did it. . And so that was a problem that was easy for me. I can be like, okay, I’m not gonna do it. And I was scared. I’ll be really honest. I was, I was afraid that I wasn’t gonna be able to not drink, which is a weird thing to think about now. Yeah. And I was afraid of that label. I was afraid of this stigma of like being a sober person. I was afraid that people were gonna think that I was an alcoholic because I made that choice to get sober. And so if that is, that might be a fear for people that are listening to this. That was a real fear for me, that people were gonna label me as an alcoholic and, and view me differently because

Sara Muender  (26:39):

I, yeah, I think of you as weak.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (26:41):

Yeah. Yeah. I have a problem, you know. Okay.

Sara Muender  (26:44):

But before we go any further, yeah. I don’t mean to interrupt, but I wanna kind of like fast forward on that note specifically. Yeah. What have you found to be actually the case of how people view you and, and

Sara Soucie Eyberg (26:57):

Not at all? They don’t, I mean, people don’t care like they really don’t and it’s, I respect you more. I think so I think there are some people who, who definitely do think that, and there are some people who look at that and are like, yeah, I, you know, I hope that some people can kind of look at their own use and see whether that still makes sense or is sustainable for them. Cuz what I realized in looking back on it was, and I still don’t identify as an alcoholic. I just, it’s not a label, but I was, I was abusing alcohol. I was using it as a crutch to mask my mental health, which was declining under this, the stresses of, of being a mom of trying to hold together, this contract work practice and being really isolated. It was all kind of coming down on me and I’ll tell you, I’m so thankful that I quit drinking before the pandemic.

Sara Muender  (27:45):

I was just gonna say that was all before the pandemic came.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (27:48):

Yeah. I was already feeling these things before that happened and I just, I just feel really grateful that, that was the case. So when I look back, I was misusing alcohol and I was using it as a crush to mask anxiety and depression. And the reason that I feel very comfortable that I, that that alcoholic label is not the right one for me is because I don’t have cravings and I was able to stop and you know, I didn’t have some of the struggles that some people do cause it is a journey and it’s a journey for a lot of people and there is, it’s a journey still we’re taking, even if you relapse or even if you, you know, end up using or you have more of that addicted behavior around alcohol use. My biggest concern when I stopped was I need to find something else to put in place of this to help me manage some of these things.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (28:39):

And so for a while I did this, the thing that I kind of, that we would do was our kind of our evening ritual at our house was to have a, B and B on the rocks, which is like a, kind of a spicy cordial that has a really high alcohol content . And, and it was just kind of like our, our habit, our relaxation sort of habit in the evening. So I replaced it with tea, with this super tasty cinnamon Rebus tea that I really enjoyed drinking. And so I would have that instead. And then the way that I decided to manage the sort of the mental health aspect of things was to lean into exercise. And so I started running and I started running really consistently to have something else to do to help me relax. And I still do it. I still use running and exercise as a way to manage my mental health.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (29:26):

And I can tell on times that I’ve taken breaks from running my mood and my like my depression will go up and my mood declines. And I it’s like a tangible thing. I used to think by the way that people who needed exercise like needed it or could tell, you know, when they weren’t having it. I just think that that was, you know, kind of, kind of crazy. like, that’s, that’s weird that you can feel just the difference that you want to exercise because it makes you feel good. I, I used to think that was a little weird and it’s totally true though. I can tell when I haven’t been exercising me too. Yeah. That I have a lower mood that I don’t feel is good. Yeah. And then you don’t feel like exercising and it becomes this full cycle.

Sara Muender  (30:08):

Yeah. You know, this topic of, of wellbeing in general is so unrelated to like what I’m doing here at lawyers. But I got my degree in complimplementary and alternative health. And my whole career plan was to become a naturopathic doctor. I lived in San Diego, they have one of the best naturopathic medicine schools in the world, a university. And so I got my undergrad in this like holistic health environment. And I come to appreciate what holistic health really means, what wellbeing really means. And you touched on this earlier, how it’s not just one thing, but it’s, it’s all of these things interplay with one another, even the way that we lead in business and the way that we run our law firm and the way that we raise our families, all intersect with how we take care of ourselves and the things we do in our personal time and how we feel about ourselves when we’re alone with ourselves. And like what you’re saying, exercise, I mean, everything they say about how it improves, you know, the whole long list of things it improves in your life. It’s true for me, it kind of acts as this like balancing activity. It balances everything and I immediately feel better afterwards. Yeah. But it takes a little bit more effort to exercise than it does to open a bottle of wine.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (31:26):

It does in time, I wanna say too, it could be walking like walking is actually really great cardiovascular exercise that I think people think of as not being really effective for your health, but it totally is. Oh yeah. And the other thing that exercise does is, you know, if you’ve read Burnout by Emily Naski, there’s this stress loop that biologically used to be, it acted to keep us safe from danger. Yeah. And biologically, we were like running away from a predator when we were done running that closed the loop on this stress, but the way that we live life now, there’s just constant stress. And there’s no way like people aren’t closing the loop. So they’re experiencing this burnout. So there’s no way to help your body physiologically stop feeling stressed out, which then affects your, you know, cortisol and your hormone levels and throws everything else outta whack.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (32:16):

And so exercise can be not the only way, but a really great way to close that loop. And I think that that has had a really positive impact for me too. But when we think about wellbeing, it’s not the absence of illness, right? And it’s not just physical wellbeing. There’s an Institute for wellbeing in the law that is doing studies on law students and lawyers and, and trying to provide resources and education on this topic of specifically wellbeing for lawyers. But one of the things that they’ve come up with is this. They have a graphic about just the different areas of wellbeing. So it’s emotional, social, physical, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual. Those are the kind of six core places. And they have, they have this graphic set up and everything’s like in a little circle, occupational, intellectual and spiritual are kind of up here. And the emotional social and physical are underneath.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (33:13):

And it’s placed that way very specifically because if your emotional social and physical wellbeing are not balanced or not in tune or not doing well, you cannot have occupational wellbeing. You can’t have intellectual wellbeing or spiritual wellbeing. So it really is focused on that idea that, you know, these things are, are core and the building blocks for having these sort of higher things like you, you just, can’t, it’s hard because I think as attorneys we’re trained to really strive to always be the top and to sacrifice a lot of times our, our sleep or our own wellness in order to get there. And it’s just not sustainable. And I think one of the things that when I talk about my sober journey that I try to talk about is just the, how there’s this stigma against mental health generally in our society. But it’s extra hard for attorneys to be admitting an issue with anything because we are also ethically required to be competent.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (34:15):

And many of us have practices that are referral based. So if you are out there about being sober or out there about getting help for mental health issues or having depression or having anxiety, you know, there’s this fear that it could financially hurt you or it could make it. So people don’t wanna refer you cases because of that, because you know, you’re unwell in some, in some way, I will just say, I’ve not found that to ever be the case though, in the entirety that I’ve been doing this. And as everybody at lawyers knows when you’re your authentic self with people, it just resonates in a way that’s different. And so not drinking is authentic for me and being a, a non-drinking person is authentic. I feel a little fortunate cuz of that extra, extra version. I don’t really need alcohol as a social lubricant or to feel comfortable in those networking rooms. I know that a lot of people do do rely on that to help them feel like they can be social and that’s not an issue for me. And so that’s kind of a, a privilege point of view that I try to be cognizant of when I talk about it.

Sara Muender  (35:20):

I think it’s worth looking at though, you know, if someone is identifying as that’s me, I need that. That’s something to stop and look and maybe go back to, we recorded a previous episode with the author and I think her name was Annie grace. The author of the book, I think, is your naked mind or my, my naked mind or something. And then the alcohol experiment. And she talks about that. If you are even questioning whether there’s a problem or things need to change, it’s worth stopping to at least have a conversation and to look at yeah. And we are all about being intentional and I’m like so drawn in by your story. And I wanna know now kind of how things have changed for you since we are kind of get getting in that direction. You know, the things that you’ve discovered and realized and how things have changed and how you’ve built this successful firm. We’re gonna take a quick break to hear from our sponsors as always. And when we come back, we’ll talk about how things are going for you now. And some of the movements that you’ve been involved in.

Zack (36:23)::

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Sara Muender  (39:39):

We’re back. And Sarah and I, Sarah and Sara on The Lawyerists Podcast today, are back talking about how Sarah’s intentional choices to focus on her well-being. As an attorney, as a mom of four, including twins has really benefited her life, her career. It sounds like things are going better than you even expected with this choice of just removing alcohol from the equation. But tell us more.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (40:07):

Yeah, so I really don’t miss it. I don’t miss the restaurant bill, right? It’s always so expensive. I don’t miss the, the liquor store bills from what we used to spend. And I was very fortunate that my partner stopped drinking at the same time that I did as a way to support me. I think it would’ve been a lot harder if I had a partner that was not supportive in that way, because it would just been harder to avoid and the, the kind of social pressure. So I wanna recognize that that’s a piece of it too, for me, that I had a wonderful supportive partner who wasn’t someone who was saying, no, you’re fine. You don’t, you don’t need to do that. He jumped in right away and was like, yeah, if you wanna do this, I’m doing it too. And let’s see what happens. And so I am eternally grateful for that because I think that that helped me to really be successful too.

Sara Muender  (40:55):

Yeah. And that’s not to say that if you don’t have a supportive partner in that way, that

Sara Soucie Eyberg (40:59):

You can’t do it,

Sara Muender  (41:00):

That, I mean, you have the power within you to change anything in your life and you can get that kind of support from elsewhere. Even if you don’t have a partner or you don’t have supportive partner, but that I, I see that that was a real value too.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (41:12):

Yeah. Yeah. It definitely was. It just made it

Sara Muender  (41:15):

Sound like easier. Shout out, your man.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (41:17):

Thanks honey. No, and I, I could have done it. I could have done it if nothing else had changed because I just have a mindset where I can be pretty disciplined that way. And if I make a decision to do something I can follow through, but it’s not that way for everybody.

Sara Muender  (41:32):

And well, I will argue that everyone listening to this podcast has put themselves through law school or, or at least the vast majority of them and right. They can do it. They can yes. Put their minds to something positive.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (41:45):

Right. And I guess what I mean to say is that there are some folks who are listening to this who may be alcoholics or may struggle. And it might not be that easy to just kind of, I think, because I didn’t have this sort of break cuz it’s a brain chemical issue, that’s what addiction is. And so it’s not something that you can just wheel your way out of always, you know, and I think anybody who’s worried, I know that there are like, we’re very fortunate to have LCL in Minnesota. And I, I depended on them, especially in the very beginning, as of just a, I would just check in with them and, and they were very supportive and that, that one counselor gave me the freedom to like, not label myself and still do this. And that was huge for me. So, you know, I just, I recognize that it wasn’t just pure willpower on my own that I was able to do that I had resources that, that were really helpful.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (42:34):

And, and I think to your point, if someone is listening to this and is going, oh, I’ve had nights where I, I was an obnoxious and I kind of wish I hadn’t been, or I’ve had times where, you know, I’ll have a cocktail every night for a week and or maybe I do that now. And maybe that’s not the best thing. And you know, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of research out there to show that there are negative impacts of continuous alcohol use on our brain and our cognition on our health, generally on our heart health, on our cardiovascular health, on our, you know, brain functioning and brain cells. Like we all know that or

Sara Muender  (43:08):

Even just mental health. I mean, it, it can, it’s

Sara Soucie Eyberg (43:11):

A depressant, it’s a depress. Yeah. If you feel down and you’re drinking, cuz you already feel depressed, this is not helping, not a solution, you know? And then the, you know, crappy, I don’t miss hangovers. Oh my God. I really don’t. You know, but I’m not really, my reason for getting sober is not because the negative impacts of alcohol so much as it’s just a really, I’m just much happier with who I am when I don’t. And I, yeah, I don’t miss it in my life and there’s a lot of positives to not having it be a part of your life.

Sara Muender  (43:42):

Yeah. And you identified that that was something that you were using to cope with stress and there are all kinds of things that people, attorneys especially use to cope with stress. I mean, you have to, it’s a very stressful line of work. It’s very easy to get very emotionally involved with your clients and the cases and what’s at stake. Yeah. And you have to have something to process that trust to help you relax at the end of the day, to help you disassociate from career so that you can actually continue to live your life and show up fully for your families. But then also be able to show up again for your clients the next day. Right. So what are some of those things that you see are positive resources that lawyers who might be struggling with alcohol or they might be struggling with gambling or they might be struggling with all kinds of different substance use right. Disorders. If you wanna call it that. Yeah. Where can they go to make a change, to get help that isn’t gonna make them look bad?

Sara Soucie Eyberg (44:43):

Yeah. So the nice thing about an organization like LCL is there are likely ones in, you know, your home state, wherever you are. I know that there are, there’ll be an equivalent because this is becoming to the forefront. So we’ve known for a long time that attorneys are problem drinkers. Like it’s just, it’s, you know, we get it in law school. They give us all the talks about substance use. And, and also so, because it’s so stressful because it’s high stakes, we could spend a whole other podcast talking about secondary trauma in the profession and people just need to cope. There are organizations like LCL, there are things like NA or AA that are really fantastic and have a track record of helping people get clean. There are partial hospitalization programs within, you know, I know we have ’em in Minnesota. There are these partial hospitalization programs where if you’re experiencing significant mental health stressors and you need a break, like there are programs like that, that you can get help.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (45:40):

If you are feeling suicidal. If you are thinking that things might be better, if you weren’t here, then that is definitely something to consider. And it may be that you have a comorbidity with an addiction that is making your mental health worse. But a lot of my clients, I do disability work. A lot of my clients who have substance use disorders are self-medicating because of mental health, the interplay between those two cannot be ignored. And so if you’re feeling that maybe you’re overusing something to help cope with another, I really think getting to the bottom of, of what’s causing this want to escape, or this need to decompress with a substance, like, you know, let’s get at the underlying piece of that.

Sara Muender  (46:24):

You heard it from Sarah’s mouth herself. You heard it yeah. It, we here in the Lawyerist community, we respect you the listener. We respect you even more for the things that you do to care for yourself, because you are so valuable in this world. I’m talking to you, who’s listening. And so we’re encouraging you to get help in the ways in which you think you need, or maybe you don’t know, but just ask anyways, right? I mean, we, we experiment and so that we can show up in this career.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (46:55):

Well, and if, you know, I mean there’s dry, January is a thing. And a lot of people learn a lot when they just try to completely quit something like alcohol use, just to see what happens. You might find that man, I lost five pounds, 10 pounds, because I just had all these extra calories or I, I don’t have a headache anymore, or I don’t feel is down. You know, there are some really positive things being a solo or small firm attorney is especially, it’s even more important to be well, because if you get sick or if you become incapacitated, there’s not really anybody to take over for you. Right? Like I like being well for myself. I have to be well for my family and I wanna be well for my clients too. Cause I know that that means that I’m doing the best work for them too.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (47:46):

So, you know, I view it as, as part of my profession to be well and to talk to other people about being well, cuz I think, and things have changed since I, even since I stopped drinking, it has become, I think more acceptable, more people are making it as a health choice versus like a, Ooh, I have a problem or I’m labeled a certain way. They’re just consciously choosing to drink less or not at all for the health benefits. And so one of the positives to that is that there’s a lot more non-alcoholic options. There’s more mocktails at restaurants. It’s more kind of socially acceptable and people are thinking about it, especially within the bar associations where I live about having those other options and having events that aren’t necessarily so centered around drinking or at bars or things like that. So there’s like some conscious thought, but there we have a lot more work to do in our profession.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (48:38):

Part of what I try to do when I talk about it is help with that stigma or it, you know, if someone listening to this makes a change or at least feels seen by the stuff that I said, then it’s worth it for me to share. But there’s so there’s so much more to do. Abas task force for lawyer wellbeing did a study in 2017. And one of the statistics that always sticks with me from that was that 6% of law students had considered suicide in the last year and that is not okay. And we have to look at what that means for our profession, that that many law students aren’t even in the practice of law yet, but are feeling that kind of desperation, that that would be something that they would consider.

Sara Muender  (49:23):

Yeah, it doesn’t, it certainly doesn’t get easier once you graduate law school and you, you start on your career path and life kicks in and you maybe start a family and you get older. Absolutely. So to summarize kind of what I see is that you have this incredible story of how you’ve made personal transformation. And I just wanna take a minute to thank you for the work that you’ve done on yourself, because all those times when it would’ve just been easy to abandon your path and just go back to how things were, the way that you were used to, you know, the easy way of just practicing old habits, all those times that you chose to make that investment. And it’s a daily choice in yourself has a ripple effect on the world, around you. It has a ripple effect on your clients as a ripple effect on your family for future generations now because you’ve got kids and their kids.

Sara Muender  (50:18):

I mean, they’re all gonna be able to trace back this story that they’ve created in their mind based on how you’ve lived your life and how you’ve ran your business and how you’ve ran your family. And so, first of all, that’s what I have to say to you as a fellow mama and someone who really respects you and who coaches, lawyers, I know how hard it is and I don’t want your efforts to go unnoticed. And thank you for also just kind on this podcast to be vulnerable and talking about your story and talking about your struggles. I mean, that’s not easy, so thank you for that, but tell us about what you’re working on now, what you’re excited about and sort of how it all relates to this path that you’ve been on.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (50:56):

Yeah. So some of the things I’ve figured out, I’ve learned a lot more about myself just from starting a business. I really didn’t wanna have my own law firm. I didn’t know anything about running a business and I didn’t have any desire to have to make all these decisions about like what to do and all of like, how am I ever gonna manage that? And again, I’m really grateful to the Lawyerist for having a roadmap literally for me to do that. But what I discovered was I really, really like it. I love identifying as a business owner. I love talking about, you know, starting a firm developing this kind of, I actually, I actually saw Sam Glover just the other day in, at the Minnesota CLE center. We were both there for, yeah, we were there for a, how to, how to start your law firm sort of program.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (51:43):

My panel was called how to start a law firm when everything’s on fire and then he was there to talk about marketing with Jess Burkin. And so it was kind of fun to have that come full circle, but I, I feel really grateful for that. I love talking about it. So I didn’t know that about myself before I did this. And then I also really leaned into, I’ve always kind of, as you could tell, when I would talk about LCL, even before I, I used their services, myself felt really strongly about their mission. I feel really strongly about improving this profession for people who come after a lot of the work that I do in professional volunteerism is aim to make this profession better. I’ve been involved in, spent a lot of years on a task force with the Minnesota state bar association to push for an early bar exam option for students in Minnesota to take the bar exam in their third year to try and alleviate some of the debt.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (52:37):

And some of the doubt that comes with not being able to work because you don’t get your bar results until several months after graduation. Now there’s a lot more innovation around the bar exam coming, and I feel really strongly about that, but I’ve been fortunate to be invited. Our Supreme court here in Minnesota has a, are really taking the concept of lawyer wellbeing seriously. And we’re having a summit tomorrow. What day is it tonight. Yep. Tomorrow sort of relaunching. It was something that was started before. It’s a call to action is what they call it. But it had started before the pandemic. We had all these stakeholders like bar, association members and professionals. We had small firm owners, large law firms, government attorneys. We brought together all the judiciary, brought all these stakeholders together to have a real conversation about wellbeing in the law and what it looked like and what the problems were and what could be done. And we had all these points that everybody was gonna do. And then we were gonna check back in and figure out what kind of progress we made and then the pandemic hit. And then there was nothing everybody’s just like emergency survival mode. So we didn’t make any of the kind of progress that we were looking for. And now a lot of these problems are worse because of, you know, what’s happened over the last two

Sara Muender  (53:53):

Years. I was gonna say, if there’s any a time for that to come together,

Sara Soucie Eyberg (53:58):

Man. It’s right. So now we’re kind of relaunching this call to action. And we have a, an event tomorrow to kind of kick that off. And I feel really passionately about being a part of that. I serve on the Minnesota state bar association, executive council as sort of representative at large. And I get to be in the room where it happens, so to speak in terms of a lot of policy making for our state bar association. And so those are the things I really care about. I also love being a part of a law school TA class that I help adjunct teach called lawyer as business owner. And now, you know, that having gone through a lot of this myself, I feel like I can speak with some credibility to these law students who are actually coming up with a concept for a law firm and formulating a business plan before they even graduate.

Sara Muender  (54:46):

Wow. That’s,

Sara Soucie Eyberg (54:47):

It’s my favorite class. I love it. It’s so fun. And I, I tell them over and over, I was like, you guys, I know attorneys who practice right now that aren’t doing the kind of thought that you’re doing around this. So

Sara Muender  (54:57):

Yeah. Just goes to show, you know, again, my point of the things that you’ve done to invest in yourself are really paying off for not just you, but for massive amounts of groups of people and for generations to come. So if there was one takeaway from this episode that someone listening, you want them to take away, what would be your hope on what action that they would take after this?

Sara Soucie Eyberg (55:23):

I think if anything that I said resonated, or if, when you think about stopping drinking or anything like that, or looking into that part of yourself, if you feel scared or if it makes you upset, just to even think about it. I, I hope that you try, I hope that you reach out to a service like LCL. You don’t have to, but just, you know, quit drinking for a week, see how you feel or two weeks or three or a month or a year, and just see if you can do it and make it, make it more of like a health challenge, like you would for some kind of exercise program. Yeah. And just see, and be introspective about what kind of impact it has on you. Because I have never heard of anybody who regretted it. Yeah. Yeah. Nobody really feels bad about missing out on that, you know, bar tab

Sara Muender  (56:11):

That is, or the hangover such a good point. And that applies to so many different substance uses that, you know, people do. And thank you for, for saying that because it’s true. Like no one ever woke up the next morning and they were like, I’m so glad I got faced last minute.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (56:30):

I feel awesome.

Sara Muender  (56:32):

Right. But if you can set your fears aside for a minute and just be willing to experiment with how you’d like to maybe try living this life differently or try running your firm differently. That’s what we’re all about. Yeah. We call that lab for a reason. We put on our lab coats and we try different experiments to see what works and see what comes up out of that and see what, you know, like you said, to quote you how it impacts you. And then I think once people realize like, wow, even just small changes, even if it’s not alcohol, but even if it’s just with the way that you’re doing your morning routine, or maybe it’s, you know what, I’m just gonna cut out like this one thing that holds you back for a while to see how it affects me. It really does end up having a positive influence on everybody else.

Sara Soucie Eyberg (57:17):

Yeah. And I think small changes and consistency is the key to really having a, a much longer impact over, over the long run.

Sara Muender  (57:25):

I’m so proud of you. thank you so much for sharing all of this. I mean, I know this wasn’t easy, but I really appreciate you opening up and you kind of nudging people in the direction of their wellbeing. Anything else that you wanna leave with before we end?

Sara Soucie Eyberg (57:40):

No, just thanks for inviting me and you know, lean into the fear. If, if you’re feeling scared of it. There’s, there’s a good reason why.

Sara Muender  (57:46):

Yeah. Good point.

Announcer  (57:50):

The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10 minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.


Your Hosts

Sara Muender

As a Lab Coach, Sara works with lawyers to build healthier law firms through workshops and 1:1 coaching. She makes sure lawyers have the guidance and tools to implement their ideas and grow their businesses.

Featured Guests

Sarah Soucie Eyberg Headshot

Sarah Soucie Eyberg

Sarah Soucie Eyberg is the principal attorney of Soucie Eyberg Law, LLC, a client-centered and future-oriented law firm focused on helping people suffering from disability get benefits to which they are entitled. Soucie Eyberg is not only service-minded when it comes to her clients, but also to her profession. She is an active member of many legal professional organizations and serves in several leadership roles.

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Last updated September 8th, 2022