Ethics & Legal Studies

Wharton’s PhD program in Ethics and Legal Studies is unique: the only doctoral program in the world to focus on ethical and legal norms relevant to individual and organizational decision-making within business.


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

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.

Sample Schedule

Years 1 and 2
  • Coursework
  • Examinations
  • Research Papers
  • Research Activities
  • Completion of Other Requirements by Field
Up to 4 courses per semester may be counted toward the overall requirement of 16 courses.


2 Ethical Theory, 2 Major Disciplinary Cluster courses, Economics (e.g. MGMT 9000), Ethics in Business and Economics (LGST 9200)and an Independent Study with selected faculty member.


2 Major Disciplinary Cluster courses and 1 Statistics course, Foundations of Business Law (LGST 9210), 1 Statistics course, and Candidacy Research Paper.

End of Year 2 Spring: Take 2 Preliminary Exams: one in Ethics and one in Law.

Year 3
  • Directed Reading & Research
  • Admission to Candidacy
  • Formulation of Research Topic
Dissertation Research. By end of the third year, students will form a dissertation committee and submit a preliminary draft of a dissertation proposal to the committee.
Year 4
  • Continued Research
  • Oral Examination
  • Dissertation

Core Courses

In addition to the Wharton Doctoral course requirements, the student’s four-course unit core in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department consists of two required doctoral seminars, LGST 9200 Ethics in Business and Economics, and LGST 9210 Foundations of Business Law. The remaining two LGST courses may be selected from a list of LGST courses that the faculty coordinator has approved.

Students without basic law courses will be required to take LGST 1010 in their first semester. Students will take LGST courses, other than Ph.D. seminars, under an independent study number, meet with the instructor periodically outside class, and write a paper. These requirements should be satisfied through courses taught by members of the LGST standing faculty, though exceptions will be made in special circumstances. The requirements may be adjusted for students with law degrees.

Ethics and Law in Business Courses

Students must take four LGST courses, including these two core course seminars:

  • Ethics in Business and Economics (LGST 9200)
  • Foundations of Business Law (LGST 9210)

Major Disciplinary Cluster

The purpose of the cluster is to ground students in a single academic specialty other than Business Ethics. Clusters include the following:

  • Management
  • Law
  • Philosophy

Students must choose a disciplinary cluster during the first year, in consultation with a faculty advisor. Required courses may not be double-counted. For example, a student choosing Philosophy as the cluster may not use the two required courses in ethical theory as part of the five course cluster requirement.

Get the Details.

Visit the Ethics & Legal Studies website for details on program requirements and courses. Read faculty and student research and bios to see what you can do with an Ethics & Legal Studies PhD.



Ethics & Legal Studies Doctoral

Brian Berkey
Associate Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics

Academic & Business Administrator
Tamara English
Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department

Faculty Members
PhD Students