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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2020

5 The Centrality of Soft Skills in Sustaining Masculine Ideals in Lawyers’ Career Progression in Finland and Quebec

From the book Men, Masculinities and the Modern Career

  • Marta Choroszewicz


The chapter examines the forms of soft skills and mechanisms, the development and recognition of which sustain masculine ideals embedded in lawyers’ career progressions in Finland and Quebec. These contexts were chosen due to their civil law backgrounds, with their reputations for being legislation friendly toward work-life balance, including generous parental leaves and flexible work arrangements, as well as equality initiatives to support women lawyers’ career advancement. The article draws on the approach of Bailly and Léné (2013) and a thematic analysis of the interviews conducted with 63 Finnish and Canadian lawyers. The results identify four soft skills, classified as social and interpersonal skills, including care orientation and listening skills, the ability to manage emotions and handle pressure, skills in business development and the ‘proper’ attitude and personality. These skills invoke masculine ideals concerning an appropriate professional persona - appearance of confidence, self-promotion, performing, networking and growing the business. The results raise concerns about social inclusion and discrimination in law firms in what is a highly individualised and male-typed professional environment of lawyers, in which the role of formal education and professional community for equipping lawyers with essential skills for legal career decreases in favour of personification, self-development and networking. The chapter advances scholarship on men, masculinities and legal careers by capturing how soft skills contribute to the reproduction of a masculine professional elite.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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