Margie Soehl brings a global perspective to intimate situations—even her own
Published in 2018 Upstate New York Super Lawyers magazine on August 13, 2018
Credit Margie Soehl’s career roadmap, which stretches from South America to Japan to upstate New York, with the lawyer’s ability to identify with people from all backgrounds. The globetrotting Guayaquil, Ecuador, native and partner at Albany’s Powers & Santola is one of the area’s few bilingual attorneys who focuses in representing serious and catastrophically injured plaintiffs.
“When I’m given a case or talking to somebody, I see through a global lens,” she says. “Being tolerant and appreciative of other cultures allows me to communicate with people in a more effective way.”
That’s especially true for those most in need. In February 2016, Soehl delivered a stirring closing argument on behalf of an aerospace machinist who checked into an ER complaining of dizziness and an incapacitating headache—only to be sent home after a radiologist diagnosed a sinus infection. What the radiologist missed on the CT scan was a blocked blood vessel that was obstructing the flow of blood to the man’s brain. A few weeks later, he suffered a massive stroke that left him disabled.
“Had he been treated with even an aspirin, he would’ve avoided it,” Soehl says. “Instead it was a wheelchair for months, re-learning how to walk. It affected him so much that his life was constantly spinning. Couldn’t even walk without grabbing onto a wall. He lost his business.”
Soehl walked the jury through her client’s hampered footsteps, through “the pain, the suffering that my client has had ever since,” she says. “I needed to bring the jury back to why we were here—away from all the technical stuff. The negligence was clear.” The jury agreed. The radiologist was hit with a county record $11.6 million verdict.
Soehl’s doggedness and empathy has served her well over 11 years and millions in settlements and verdicts. She’s relying on those traits now as she fights a much larger battle.
In 2013, during a trial, Soehl felt a tiny lump on her neck. It turned out to be a desmoid tumor, a rare and aggressive non-metastasized tumor that occurs in the body’s connective tissue and can invade nearby organs. Surgery poses a huge risk to nearby bodily structures.
“It’s a fight,” Soehl says. “So many ups and downs, so much bad news. It’s a constant struggle—but throughout it, my family is more strong, my kids are more compassionate and tolerant, and they see the world through different eyes.”
The constant churn of treatments, chemotherapy side effects, pain, ER visits and setbacks took its toll, and in January, Soehl’s doctor advised her to step away from work for a time and focus on her recovery and her family—which includes husband Timothy and their children, Mia and Aidyn.
“With two young kids, you want to be there for them,” she says. “So we stay focused on the long-term and finding inner strength to keep hope alive and get through the daily struggle.”
The same tenacity and purview are hallmarks of her legal career, too. At Powers & Santola, Soehl worked her way from legal secretary to partner in under seven years.
The daughter of an economist and a stay-at-home mom, Soehl grew up with a tantalizing sense of a world outside her borders. Her aunt sometimes hosted foreign exchange students. “As a young child, just sitting there listening to these stories about [other countries] … my world wasn’t just Ecuador. I needed to see that.”
She jumped at an opportunity to intern at Yamaguchi International Law Offices in Osaka, where she pitched in on international transactions. Back home, she landed on former Ecuadorian President Gustavo Noboa’s legal advisory team.
“My main job was to prepare legislation and executive resolutions for review by the senior members,” Soehl says. “The work was demanding and exciting—the government at that time was attempting to revive the Ecuadorian economy. I would work long hours and meet with interesting people, but I still left work not entirely fulfilled. I wanted to know the people that I was helping at an individual level. When I came to the United States, I immediately began looking for a position where I could positively impact lives one by one.”
Soehl says she “sees a global picture and puts it through a narrow tunnel” to guide her clients through their darkest days. Her own, too.