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Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Lionel Sawyer law firm files bankruptcy owing $3.37 million

4 February 2015

LAS VEGAS -- The historic Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm, which went out of business at the beginning of the year, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation at the end of January, owing creditors more than $3.37 million.

The law firm, once considered the state's largest legal house, said in a voluntary filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Las Vegas that it had assets of $931,626 in personal property.

The only secured creditor, according to the filing, was Western Alliance Bank, which is owed $2.86 million.

Lionel Sawyer & Collins was founded 48 years ago by attorney Sam Lionel and former Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer. It was the first Las Vegas law firm to open an office in Reno and became a statewide powerhouse.

The politically connected firm was at the forefront of many major gaming changes in Nevada and represented a who's who of the casino industry.

But as gaming exploded across the U.S., starting in the 1990s, Lionel Sawyer began to show cracks. The gaming practice remained too concentrated on Nevada. The firm's lawyer roster whittled to about 35 after being the biggest in the state with more than 50 in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City.

During 2014, the firm had lost many of its partners and associates to other law firms and businesses.

On New Year's Day, nearly 20 of the firm's attorneys in Las Vegas and Reno joined the Fennemore Craig law firm.