Get to Know Christensen Law – Sarah Stempky-Kime
2021 is a personal milestone for Sarah Stempky-Kime. Marking 12 years of legal service, Sarah has worked with founder Dave Christensen since her early days as law a clerk.
On Joining CL
“I had been working with Dave for five years, and knew he was the best trial lawyer, period.” When he approached Sarah about leaving their current firm and setting up Christensen Law, she did not hesitate, telling him she was not staying there without him.
Sarah had worked alongside Dave while still at Michigan State, and upon passing the bar in 2010, he asked the firm to hire her. They worked as a close-knit team, so it was unthinkable for Sarah not to make the move.
Today, she serves as the Managing Attorney of Christensen Law, handling much of the day-to-day operational aspects as well as her casework, while climbing the ranks of highly notable female trial lawyers in Michigan (see awards and cases here).
Strategy, preparation, empathy, and above all, truth. These are Sarah’s guideposts in her approach to her work. She quickly acknowledges that the latter is not always the baseline with defense counsel. “I’m happy to debate on the merits, but everyone should be playing with the same set of facts.” In particular, she recalls a frustrating case that Christensen Law had won but remains in appeal, where the defense attorney regularly resorted to disingenuous shading of the facts. “I believe the common ground should be truth – that is where I begin and end, always.”
Sarah’s empathy serves her well in representing accident victims. “I do feel their anxiety; I think it makes me more accessible.” As a personal injury attorney, she feels it is critical to make a connection on a deeper level with her clients, which often means becoming emotionally invested.
“We also try to extend that connection with the jury, so they can understand fully the scope of the victim’s circumstances.” This was evident in one case where the jury returned a favorable verdict and, unusually, came over to meet and hug the plaintiff with tears and well wishes after the trial concluded.
Perhaps one of her most memorable cases was her and Dave’s first on establishing Christensen Law. Not only because it was the inaugural winning verdict, but also because it was the largest ever in the State of Michigan at the time for a non-fatal traffic accident, at $17.8 million, where the client suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Sarah is all about family. Raised on a Christmas tree farm in the UP with three sisters, complete with a barn full of horses and pigs, the girls learned early the craft and hard work of a large-scale retail horticultural operation. The family has always been close and remains so, with three generations frequently gathering for holidays and celebrations, and all the grandkids spending time “working” on the farm.
As a mom of three young children, she is always moving and very hands-on with their education and activities. For herself, Sarah continues to participate in sports year-round. She has played turf soccer most of her adult life and competes in a local women’s league, and she rides when she can – she still has her same childhood horse, Cody, but also takes jumping lessons.
A natural creative streak is expressed through various mediums. Sarah has enjoyed pastels, oil painting, and pottery in the past. Photography, however, is now her primary outlet, “It’s something of an obsession,” she says. Her subjects are usually her family, and friends and their families, often with the outdoors as the location of choice and the entire composition designed to meet her artistic criteria.
Always aware of her empathetic nature, it was not until 2020 that it really struck home. Sarah and her husband Dan’s strength was tested when their infant son suffered a brain injury resulting from chronic and severe epileptic seizures. At the height of the pandemic, the family traveled to California so baby Alistair could undergo a functional hemispherectomy at the Ronald Regan Children’s Medical Center at UCLA. At such a young age, it was largely unknown what developmental challenges he might endure after the surgery. As with all things, Sarah immersed herself, researching the condition, treatment and outcomes, as well as the neurologists and neurosurgeons who specialize in the procedure. As before, her extended family – including the Christensen Law family – all came together in support of Alistair. She continues to balance his rehabilitation and therapy while ensuring all the usual joys of family life and young childhood are a part of their day-to-day.
And while it can be a trigger that rekindles all the emotion and uncertainty of the surgery, Sarah offers herself as a parent resource to those who are undergoing similar situations. “If I can help educate or bring awareness to the issues, and help reframe people’s thinking from fear to hope,” she says, “then I am happy to do it.”
For more information on epilepsy and brain injuries, visit: