Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral Program

The Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral Program at Wharton focuses on the study of ethics and law in business. It is designed to prepare graduates for tenure-track careers in university teaching and research at leading business schools, and law schools.

The Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral Program will be reviewing applications for Fall 2023 entry.  The deadline to apply is December 15, 2022. 


The Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral Program at Wharton trains students in the fields of ethics and law in business. Students are encouraged to combine this work with investigation of related fields, including Philosophy, Law, Psychology, Management, Finance, and Marketing. Students take a core set of courses in the area of ethics and law in business, together with courses in an additional disciplinary concentration such as management, philosophy/ethical theory, finance, marketing, or accounting. Our program size and flexibility allow students to tailor their program to their individualized research interests and to pursue joint degrees with other departments across Wharton and Penn. Resources for current Ph.D. students can be found at

Our world-class faculty take seriously the responsibility of training graduate students for the academic profession. Faculty work closely with students to help them develop their own distinctive academic interests. Our curriculum crosses many disciplinary boundaries. Faculty and student intellectual interests include a range of topics such as:

  • Philosophy & Ethics: • philosophical business ethics • normative political philosophy • rights theory • theory of the firm •  philosophy of law • philosophy of punishment & coercion • philosophy of deception and fraud • philosophy of blame and complicity • climate change ethics • effective altruism • integrative social contracts theory • corporate moral agency
  • Law & Legal Studies: • law and economics • corporate penal theory • constitutional law • bankruptcy • corporate governance • corporate law • financial regulation • administrative law • empirical legal studies • blockchain and law • antitrust law • environmental law and policy • corporate criminal law • corruption • negotiations.
  • Behavioral Ethics: • neuroscience and business ethics • moral psychology • moral beliefs and identity • moral deliberation • perceptions of corporate identity.

Contact & Resources

Amy Sepinwall, Faculty Coordinator

Tamara English, Academic & Business Administrator

Prospective Students
View the Legal Studies Ph.D. FAQ or Visit Wharton

Current Ph.D. Students

Ethics & Legal Studies Career Placements

All Wharton PhD Placements

Our program prepares graduates for tenure-track careers in university teaching and research at leading business schools and law schools. We have an excellent record of tenure-track placements, including Carnegie Mellon University, Notre Dame University, and George Washington University.  Click here to see our placements.

Students enter the program from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including undergraduate degrees in business, philosophy, pre-law, psychology, and sociology. Some students have earned master degrees or law degrees prior to admission. Prior coursework in ethics, law, social sciences, or philosophy is considered a plus, although no formal credentials in any one of these areas is a prerequisite.

Course of Study

The course of study for the Ph.D. requires the completion of sixteen graduate course units, including two core doctoral seminars as well as two core courses in statistics. Some graduate-level credit from courses at other universities may transfer to Wharton. The expected time required to complete the degree is five years. Students receive tuition waivers, health insurance, and an annual living stipend. Students are expected to play an active and engaged role in the department’s and the University of Pennsylvania’s scholarly community while pursuing their degree, and as such, they are expected to be resident in the local area as they progress through the program.

Academic Enrichment

The Department regularly hosts junior and senior scholars from around the world for talks, lunches, and seminars. Doctoral students are encouraged to take full advantage of these opportunities.

The Legal Studies & Business Ethics Seminar Series features speakers from various areas of law and business ethics.  A wide range of recent topics includes Coin-Operated Capitalism, Paying People to Take Health Risks, The Curious Case of Social Enterprise Law, and Assigning Blame in the Wake of the Financial Crisis.

The Zicklin Center Normative Business Ethics Workshop Series provides a regular forum for scholars working on business ethics from a normative perspective.  A wide range of recent topics includes the Ethics of Big Data in Genomics, Boycotting the Boycott, a Reflection on the Duty of Charity Within Shareholder Theory, and Workplace Sexual Harassment as Sex Discrimination.

Current PhD Students


Brian E. Hathaway
6th year Ph.D. Student


I came to Wharton after working in local government policy, studying social entrepreneurship in an MBA program, and enduring two years as a strategy consultant. By the time I got here, I had an eclectic bundle of interests and experiences–however, I did not think of them as “research interests” until I began the program!

I am broadly interested in the effect of business on society and vice versa, with a focus on organizations that are run by and/or seek to help disadvantaged groups. In one current project, I study how microfinance organizations balance social outreach with financial sustainability; in another, I study how minority business owners anticipate and respond to government persecution. As a joint degree student in Management and Ethics & Legal Studies, I feel fully immersed in both descriptive (what happened) and normative (what should happen) discussions on these issues.

This department provides an unusual degree of flexibility to mold the program to fit our individual interests. I worked closely with both departments to create a customized joint degree plan, and I felt supported throughout the process. As a result, I feel empowered to pursue topics that I am passionate about, even at this early stage of my research career. It is great–and rare–to be in an environment that is both entrepreneurial and nurturing!

Focus intensely on (a) identifying topics that you genuinely think are interesting and important, and (b) cultivating a distinct and thoughtful point of view on those topics. When I was applying, I remember being discouraged by the intimidating numbers, the seemingly opaque and unpredictable process, and of course the internet message boards. My life (and perhaps, my application) improved when I let go of the box-checking mentality and embraced the true and unique aspects of my journey that informed my candidacy. This mentality has also kept me grounded and content now that I am in the program.

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Michaela Lobo
2nd year Ph.D. Student


I majored in business administration during my undergraduate degree, following which I was involved in brand marketing and corporate responsibility for the Estée Lauder Companies. During my bachelor’s degree and my time in the corporate world, I had a growing interest in morality and, more specifically, how ethics should apply within the context of business. This led me to pursue an MLitt in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews and, currently, the Ethics and Legal Studies PhD at Wharton.

During my search for doctoral programs, I was looking for something very specific: a program that would allow me to ask philosophical questions about business organisations, how they should be operated, how their members should behave, and so on. Unlike traditional programs at philosophy or business departments, Wharton’s LGST PhD is unique in that the aim is to prepare students to become academics in business ethics itself. I valued the opportunity to build foundations in business, economics, philosophy, and law. Additionally, I appreciated that we would simultaneously hone skills in our preferred methodology and dive deeper into areas of research we find most interesting. I was fortunate to interact with some of the faculty members and current students one-on-one and via the Zicklin Center’s workshops (enabled by the shift from in-person to the Zoom room). These interactions allowed me to discover first-hand the fantastic academic culture of the department and its members’ passion for normative business ethics.

I would advise prospective students to first focus on themselves: What ideas are you constantly thinking about? What types of questions are you eager to explore and have answered? And, in what ways do you like solving these puzzles? Next, find the department and set of faculty that can best support you in asking these questions, finding ways to solve them, and, eventually, discovering answers to them!

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Samuel Mortimer
4th year Ph.D. Student


I came to Wharton with a background in philosophy and a desire to specialize in applied ethics. At a macro level, I wanted to understand some of the more complex ethical challenges currently facing societies and their constituents, particularly climate change on the one hand and the ethical dimensions of speech on the other. Because questions in applied ethics necessarily intersect with legal, economic, and behavioral issues, my priority was to study at a graduate program which would broaden my knowledge of these disciplines as well as provide me with the necessary quantitative training to pursue empirical research of my own. The Wharton graduate program is unique in meeting this objective.

I would advise prospective applicants to think outside the box when applying to graduate school. Because the Wharton program is so unique, it may not seem an obvious choice at first. But explore the range of research pursued by the faculty—you might be surprised at the diversity of interests and methods, and how closely they align with your own.

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Tabitha Mustafa
3rd year Ph.D. Student


I came to the program after years of working in the nonprofit sector, predominantly focused on human rights law and policy. I selected this graduate program because of its interdisciplinary nature; I had become accustomed to interdisciplinarity as an undergraduate conducting research and coursework in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Tulane University. In both my academic and professional careers, I studied race and class-related history and social problems through literary and social science frameworks. However, Wharton will allow me to utilize business, legal, and philosophical modes of analysis to better inform my scholarship.

I am interested in the ways in which the intersection of business, law, and ethics affects Black Americans. Through my doctoral research, I intend to investigate the economic foundations of slavery in the United States, and its implications for the current business―economic and legal―impacts on United States-born African descendants. I look forward to making a viable contribution to the program’s scholarship and teaching, whilst creating a breadth of work for academia and the public that impacts both policy and people.

Lastly, I would advise applicants to talk to anyone who will speak to you―graduate students, professors, alumni, and administrative staff. One of the most appealing aspects of this department was that people were genuine and welcoming. Know what type of atmosphere and which values are important to you, and find the program to match.

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Guilherme Siqueira de Carvalho
4th year Ph.D. Student


I was drawn to studying and researching the vicious cycle of systemic corruption since 2014 with a particular and growing interest in the nuances of the relationship between businesses and corruption. The interdisciplinary approach, the world-class faculty, and the overall academic design of the Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral Program at Wharton provide the ideal setting for pursuing that interest and will enable me to approach his subject of study from multiple angles.

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Olamide Williams
2nd year Ph.D. Student


Since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been a public emphasis on the ethical responsibility of the economic and financial policy-making agencies that oversee the financial system. I hope to explore methodological approaches to ethics and critically apply that to economic and financial policymaking, particularly during crisis time. Wharton not only offers the ethical foundation for my research on what responsibility, if any, such agencies have towards economic participants, but a faculty who will engage and are well versed in the economic, legal, and policy questions that arise along the way. I am confident that as my research evolves, Wharton’s interdisciplinary nature and faculty will offer expert guidance in whatever direction I go.