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April 17, 2014

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Mega-law firms to join forces

One of the most influential law firms in Las Vegas is merging with a Denver-based firm in a deal that demonstrates the increasing importance of the city's business community.

Powerhouse Las Vegas firm Schreck Brignone will merge Jan. 1 with Brownstein Hyatt & Farber, becoming Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber is one of the Rocky Mountain region's most prominent law firms, with a large real estate practice, a national corporate and litigation practice and a strong lobbying presence in Washington.

Schreck Brignone is led by Frank Schreck, one of Nevada's top gaming lawyers, and, with 25 lawyers, is the city's 12th largest law firm, according to the In Business Las Vegas Book of Business Lists.

But it is the influence of Frank Schreck and the size and prestige of his clients that separate the firm from the pack. Schreck's clients include the state's largest casino operator and employer, MGM Mirage, and Wynn Resorts.

The merger resulted from the longtime relationship between Schreck and Norm Brownstein, a founding partner of the Colorado firm. The two firms have recently partnered on a number of projects and transactions, and Schreck said that the merger will differ from the dozen or so deals in the past few years when out-of-state firms set up shop in Las Vegas.

"The other deals weren't mergers - they were acquisitions," Schreck said. "You had out-of-state firms buying Las Vegas practices or Arizona firms coming in and hiring local attorneys. This is a true merger."

The combined firm will have more than 170 lawyers and policy consultants. Its headquarters will be in Denver, with offices in Las Vegas; Washington; Aspen, Colo.; Albuquerque ; Orange County, Calif.; and Santa Fe, N.M.

All employees and attorneys of the two combining firms will stay with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

The merger was unanimously approved by both firms' partnerships.

Schreck said that the incredible size of the projects being undertaken by Las Vegas-based resort companies as well as the complexity of the gaming industry's mergers and acquisitions led him a couple of years ago to begin contemplating joining with a bigger national firm.

Since then, the deals and projects have gotten even bigger, and the firm has lost some financing business because it just didn't have the manpower, he said.

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber's interest in Las Vegas is a reflection of the importance of the market, Schreck said.

"They see that Las Vegas is turning into a sophisticated commercial business center like Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles," he said. "When you have $4 billion, $5 billion, $8 billion projects, there's more financing work here than in those three other cities combined. They recognize it isn't just Sin City."

Schreck has a long-standing friendship with Norm Brownstein, and he said Brownstein's firm was a perfect complement to his own firm.

Schreck cited Brownstein's amazing number of friendships with key American business leaders and government officials.

"Norm is everywhere and knows everyone," Schreck said. "His true love is lobby work; his real strength is getting people to work through problems with government."

Schreck also cited Steve Farber, a partner in the firm who specializes in real estate work, as "an incredibly powerful lawyer, one of the most powerful men in Colorado."

Brownstein Hyatt & Farber Managing Partner and Chief Executive Bruce James said the merger will capitalize on each firm's strengths.

"They represent some of the biggest players in Nevada but have been limited by their size, while we liked the Las Vegas market and have a deep bench of corporate and real estate attorneys," James said.

Merger talks took a speedy six to eight months because the firms' partners felt comfortable with one another.

"The way we run our firms is strikingly similar," James said.

Schreck said that the merger will do more than allow the firm's team of Las Vegas workers to provide the range of services needed by his clients.

"Now, with the size of our firm and the ability to expand, we'll be able to take on additional work that in the past we have turned away," Schreck said, noting that his firm is already looking to hire "a bunch" of real estate and commercial transaction lawyers.

Steve Wynn said the move makes great sense for Schreck and his firm.

"Frank is such a conscientious guy - Frank's clients now are very big companies and he was worried about his ability to fully serve them," Wynn said. "Hooking up with a big firm allows him to take care of his clients."

Wynn said he has known and respected Brownstein for a long time, and praised Brownstein for his decision to merge with Schreck.

"The guy who got the break here is Norm Brownstein," Wynn said with a grin.

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