Exodus brings the end of Lionel Sawyer

Once-empty desks once again are in use at the law offices of Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas.

Fennemore Craig in late December added to its staff of eight Reno attorneys by successfully recruiting a group of 10 lawyers from the Reno office of Lionel Sawyer Collins. Fennemore Craig also wooed nine attorneys from the Lionel Sawyer Collins office in Las Vegas, including Samuel Lionel, who co-founded the practice in 47 years ago.

The moves mark the end of the Lionel Sawyer Collins brand in Nevada — the entire Lionel Sawyer team from Reno moved over to Fennemore Craig, and the Southern Nevada office will be dissolved.

The additions to the Fennemore Craig team allow the practice to offer a much broader range of services for clients, says Ann Morgan, managing partner for the Reno offices of Fennemore Craig. The practice lost some of its top talent when the Jones Vargas practice in Reno split apart in July of 2012.

“Ever since we joined Fennemore Craig in the Reno office, we have been looking to expand our footprint in a couple of areas,” Morgan says. “We didn’t have a corporate attorney, we didn’t have a gaming attorney — both of those attorneys moved to other firms when Jones Vargas split apart. This particular move gives us both of those practice areas that we wanted back.”

Joining the Fennemore Craig offices are directors Colleen A. Dolan, Craig E. Etem, Leslie Bryan Hart, William J. McKean, Dan R. Reaser and Alan J. Wilt. New of-counsel attorneys include Paul Bancroft and Courtney Miller O’Mara, and new associates include Katherine Hoffman and John D. Tennert.

Morgan says Fennemore Craig will expand its physical footprint as well by leasing additional space to house the new attorneys, who join Fennemore Craig directors Morgan, John Sande III, Elizabeth Fielder and Dave Davis, of-counsel attorneys Shannon Pierce and Jesse Wadhams, and associates Matthew Digesti and A.J. Hames.

The 10 former Lionel Sawyer Collins attorneys spent part of the holidays moving boxes and personal belongings a few blocks east from their former offices at 50 W. Liberty St. to the 15th floor at 300 E. Second St. Reaser says the group also moved more than 300 banker’s boxes filled with client files.

“We are taking a lot of clients with us,” Reaser says.

The group began working at Fennemore Craig last Thursday. Reaser says the move gives the former Lionel Sawyer attorneys a much broader reach.

“This opportunity to combine the Reno office with Fennemore Craig gives the historical Lionel Sawyer team the resources and the geographical diversification that were not available to us as a firm that was exclusively in Nevada,” he says. “With Fennemore Craig having offices in Arizona, Nevada and Colorado and looking to expand, this gives us a larger platform and the robust resources of a larger, more diverse firm for our clients.”

Fennemore Craig is headquartered at Phoenix and has additional offices in Denver, Tucson, Nogales, Ariz., and Las Vegas. Fennemore Craig earlier this year made two similar moves for its Denver practice area, and Morgan says the Reno team will use the lessons learned through those additions to quickly assimilate the former Lionel Sawyer team.

“We have a real keen appreciation of what is required,” Morgan says. “We have taken those lessons so we can get everyone up and running on Day 1. We have a checklist to get in touch with techs, clients and files and what is due on the first week so that nobody misses a beat.

“We have really refined our ability to integrate large numbers of lawyers,” she adds. “All the Fennemore Craig folks have partnered up with the Lionel Sawyer folks so that someone can answer a question right then.”

The additions substantially broaden scope of practice for Fennemore Craig. Reaser, McKean and Hoffman will focus on gaming regulation and gaming law, while Dolan adds expertise in real estate and finance law. Etem joins the existing transactional finance and corporate law team of Fielder and Davis, while Wilt and Hart will work as litigation attorneys. O’Mara will continue in an of-counsel role, and Tennert is a litigation associate who teams with Morgan, Pierce, Digesti and Hames.

“It gives us real bench depth in the area of commercial litigation,” Morgan says. “We are a strong business commercial firm. We needed all the practice areas and depth of experience provided by these attorneys. Indeed, we have been interested in recruiting them for some time. To be able to get them to join us as a group really positions us to be the strong regional presence required by our clients.”


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