A recent trend in legal resumes has been to add a “hobbies/interests” section. Historically, this section was not included in an attorney’s resume, but it is now considered acceptable. Most people think that the reason that this section is in the resume is to show the interviewer that you are a real human being with interests outside of the practice of law. Showing that you are well-rounded sounds good in theory; but remember that an employer is hiring you for your legal skills, not your marathon-running experience.

So am I saying that you should remove this section from your resume? Not at all. Just know what this section is actually for and know how it should be utilized.

The “interests/hobbies” section of a resume is there for one reason only - it’s a crutch for a bad interviewer to break the ice. It’s a way to start the conversation before delving into the nuts and bolts of your practice. So with this in mind, make sure that section is valuable. Don’t say that you enjoy reading, spending time with your family, watching television (yes, we see this one all the time). It doesn’t break the ice with an interviewer. “So, Steve … I see you like television. What shows do you watch?” There is little doubt that if you hear that in your interview, you’re not getting the job.

Go ahead and use this section to highlight something that you like to do, but make sure to put things in there that spark conversation and show that you are interesting. If you like reading, maybe you like reading books on Victorian architecture? That’s specific and interesting. If you like baseball, drill down and find something interesting to put on the resume. Maybe your hobby is collecting vintage baseball cards, researching a particular team or coaching little league baseball?

Above all else, you have to be genuine. If you don’t know about the topic, and it really isn’t an interest of yours – DON’T PUT IT ON YOUR RESUME. I promise you that karma will put an expert on the topic on the other side of the interview table.

A last tip: if you live by the sword, you may die by the sword. Many attorneys use this section of the resume to add their religious/political interests. That’s fine if you REALLY want to include it – just know that anything politically or religiously-charged may come back to haunt you. You have no idea if the resume is in front of someone with very different views. As a general rule, we recommend leaving that information out of your resume.