Mass departure: Twenty leave Lionel Sawyer & Collins for rival firm

In a major shakeup to Las Vegas’ legal industry, nearly 20 attorneys are ditching powerhouse law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins — including co-founder Sam Lionel and some who just made partner — for rival Fennemore Craig.

Fennemore said today that nine Lionel Sawyer attorneys are joining its Las Vegas office and another 10 are joining its Reno outpost. They start their new jobs in January, boosting Fennemore’s attorney head count in Nevada to nearly 50, the firm said.

Lionel Sawyer had 64 local attorneys as of April 30, making it the largest firm in the valley at the time, according to VEGAS INC research.

A call to the firm seeking comment was not immediately returned today.

“We look forward to becoming part of Fennemore Craig, which is a firm with a strong culture of quality lawyers focused on top-notch client service like Lionel Sawyer,” Sam Lionel, president and litigation-practice chair of his namesake firm, said in a news release. “Fennemore’s 130-year tradition of community and professional involvement mirrors the commitment that Lionel Sawyer has had to Nevada for so many years.”

Other shareholders leaving with Lionel include former U.S. senator and Nevada governor Richard Bryan; Las Vegas real estate and corporate lawyer Jeff Zucker; Reno real estate attorney Colleen Dolan; and Las Vegas health care lawyer Lynn Fulstone.

Also switching sides are Ketan Bhirud, Mark Gardberg and Courtney Miller O’Mara, who were named partners at Lionel Sawyer less than two weeks ago.

Founded in 1967 by Lionel and former Nevada governor Grant Sawyer, Lionel Sawyer has offices in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. One of its more notable lawyers was Bob Faiss, an influential casino-industry attorney who died in June.

Fennemore Craig, with six offices in Denver, Nevada and Arizona, has more than 200 lawyers. As of April 30, it had 24 local attorneys, making it tied for 15th-largest firm in the valley, according to VEGAS INC research.