Sarah Winsberg

Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law



Sarah Winsberg studies the way that sorting and organizing legal knowledge has produced gradual, yet ultimately profound, change in the common law of contracts, work, and business. Sarah's research reveals these lost transformations, using history to offer deep insight into the theory of private law. Her research explores the roots of modern economic conundrums from the gig economy to the rise of subcontracting as corporate structure, and beyond.  

Sarah’s article on attorney malpractice appeared in the journal Legal Ethics, where it received the Deborah Rhode Early Career Scholar Paper Prize. Sarah earned her B.A. in history from Yale University magna cum laude and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School summa cum laude with graduation prizes in employment law, legal ethics, and criminal law. At Penn Law, she was a senior editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and a member of Penn Law Advocates for the Homeless. She is currently an advanced Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is supervised by Sarah Barringer Gordon. In 2018-19, Sarah clerked for Judge Anthony Scirica on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Earlier, Sarah worked as a paralegal in civil legal aid at Legal Assistance of Western New York. Her research has been supported by the New York Public Library, the Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Pennsylvania, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Sarah’s primary teaching interests are in contracts, employment, legal history, property, and business organizations.

Areas of Interest

Sarah Winsberg, Attorney ‘Mal-Practices’: An Invisible Ethical Problem in the Early American Republic, 19 Legal Ethics 187 (2016).
Legal Profession
Legal History
Legal Ethics
Type: Article
Lawyers and judges in the early American republic were surprisingly reluctant to penalise colleagues for malpractice and misconduct towards clients. Though they were part of a legal culture obsessed with preserving lawyers’ moral rectitude, they nonetheless remained sceptical of attempts to address malpractice. This article explores that apparent contradiction. I analyse allegedly wronged clients’ unsuccessful attempts to seek legal satisfaction, whether in civil, criminal, or professional suspension proceedings. I find that the period’s public-spirited legal ethics was in fact a major contributor to these former clients’ difficulties. Legal reformers worried constantly about the dangers to the republic of too-zealous advocacy, which might undermine the public interest. These concerns helped render the opposite problem – of lazy or even duplicitous client ‘advocacy’ – invisible and irremediable. Stories from the past, I argue, help illuminate a tendency to overlook malpractice that continues to this day.

Education History

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