It’s one of my favorite lines. You know the setting: the team’s just won the Super Bowl (the Stanley Cup, the World Series, the final game of March Madness), and as several tons of confetti rain down, the coach, “On behalf of myself and the team,” thanks the greatest fans in the world. On behalf of “myself”? Who cares! These highly successful people earn their living relying on talents other than their ability to put words together.
But, fair or not, when readers see a grammatical error in a lawyer’s sentence, they begin to doubt even the content of his other sentences. Fortunately, the opposite is also true: when we successfully navigate through difficult grammar rules, readers notice and put more faith in what we have to say.
At WordRake we hire lawyers to handle many aspects of what we do, from filing patents to steering us through the securities maze. If one of our counsel wrote the following sentence, we would have to let him go:
My letter to Mr. Gallagher was written after our meeting, during which myself and the General Manager explained why the IPO should be postponed a month.
In court, in negotiations, at the patent office, that lawyer becomes WordRake. If what he writes is grammatically incorrect, WordRake looks bad. We can’t afford that; no client can; so we have to know that our lawyers will get it right. The lawyer who wrote the sentence below gets it right, and that gives me faith he can successfully represent WordRake:
I have enclosed information on our relevant areas of practice and profiles on Paul and myself.
So you can impress new friends met at wine tastings, remember: “Myself” is a “reflexive” pronoun. We need reflexive pronouns because we have to distinguish between, “Alphonse assigned him to the position” from “Alphonse assigned himself to the position.” Big difference.
The Rule: “me” is objective; “myself” is also objective; neither may be used as a subject, which is the problem with the first example above; but use “myself” instead of “me” only where “I” is nearby and acting on “myself,” as in the second example.
We all make mistakes, but in a law practice, grammatical mistakes must be rare, and we must make them honestly, not because we don’t know better or do not care enough to get it right.