Amid resignations, law firm Gordon Silver figuring out what’s next

A view of an office building at 3690 Howard Hughes Parkway Monday, May 11, 2015. The law firm of Gordon Silver is a tenant of the building occupying the top three floors.

Months after the biggest law firm in Las Vegas shut down, another influential firm has an uncertain future as waves of attorneys pack their things and go.

Gordon Silver, known for its big bankruptcy practice, has been hit with numerous resignations and is now “assessing the prospects of what to do,” newly elected managing shareholder Mark Dzarnoski said today.

Dzarnoski was picked for the post Friday after predecessor Greg Garman quit to help launch a new firm — Garman Turner Gordon — with about 15 Gordon Silver attorneys, including bankruptcy department founder Gerald “Jerry” Gordon and litigator Erika Pike Turner.

Gordon, whose last day is this Friday, has been with the firm since he graduated from law school in 1973.

Reasons for the departures could not immediately be confirmed.

“I’d rather not answer that,” Gordon said when asked why he is leaving. “It’s complex, obviously, for me.”

Gordon Silver was founded in 1967 and says it’s one of the oldest and largest law firms in Nevada.

The resignations have shrunk its roster of local attorneys and sparked rumors that it’s on the brink of closing.

Others who left in recent months include criminal-defense lawyer Dominic Gentile, who has started a firm with ex-Gordon Silver shareholders, Dzarnoski said.

Gentile did not return a call for comment.

Dzarnoski said it’s “premature for me to give you any statement” on Gordon Silver’s plans. Also, there are “no decisions” about whether the firm will move from its three floors of office space at the Hughes Center, widely viewed in the real estate industry as the best office park in Las Vegas.

Gordon Silver has worked on several high-profile bankruptcy cases, including those of the mothballed Fontainebleau resort; Jerry’s Nugget Casino; Hooters Casino Hotel; Las Vegas Monorail; and the Riviera, which closed last week.

The firm had 39 local attorneys in spring 2014, making it the sixth-largest in the valley at the time, according to VEGAS INC research. It had about 24 lawyers as of today, Dzarnoski said.

The firm also has employees at small satellite offices in cities such as Reno and Phoenix.

Two local attorneys — both veterans and from different firms — said Gordon Silver was hoping to land the bankruptcy of existing client Caesars Entertainment. But the debt-laden casino giant filed the case in Illinois.

Las Vegas-based Caesars is using Chicago lawyers with bankruptcy heavyweight Kirkland & Ellis, as well as others, to handle what many people expected to be a long, complicated case — and thus a cash cow for law firms.

“That was a blow” to Gordon Silver, one of the local attorneys said.

Gordon declined to comment on that.

Dzarnoski said any law firm with bankruptcy lawyers would have considered Caesars to be a “prime client” with a “very lucrative” case. However, he said he’s “not willing to say” whether Gordon Silver was counting on getting the work.

Caesars Entertainment spokesman Stephen Cohen said he didn’t know whether Gordon Silver had been considered.

Meanwhile, if the firm vacates its offices, it would be a big setback for landlord the Blackstone Group, which bought the 68-acre Hughes Center for $347 million in 2013.

Gordon Silver is renting 54,000 square feet in a nine-story building at 3960 Howard Hughes Parkway, a local broker said. The building’s current asking rent is $2.90 per square foot, so at that rate, Gordon Silver’s rent comes out to $156,600 per month, according to the broker.

John Woo, who oversees the office park as portfolio manager for Blackstone unit Equity Office, did not return calls for comment. Hughes Center listing broker Ryan Martin, of Colliers International, also did not return a call.

Gordon Silver’s troubles come after powerhouse law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins — the largest in Las Vegas as of last spring with 64 lawyers — closed in late December.

The closure came after nearly 20 attorneys, including co-founder Sam Lionel and some who had just made partner, left en masse for rival Fennemore Craig.

In its bankruptcy liquidation filing in January, Lionel Sawyer & Collins reported having about $932,000 in assets and $3.4 million in liabilities. The bulk of its debt, $2.8 million, was apparently tied to a credit line with Western Alliance Bank, court records show. The lender operates locally as Bank of Nevada.

Still, one of the local attorneys who heard rumors last week of Gordon Silver’s supposedly pending demise issued a note of caution.

“Law firms are fragile things,” he said. “Once these rumors start swirling, they become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

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