Top law practices to merge

Dec 5, 2006 6:11 AM

One of Las Vegas’ top law firms, Schreck Brignone, will merge on Jan. 1 with Brownstein Hyatt & Farber, a high-powered legal team based in Denver.

The expanded firm will be named Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and will be headquartered in Denver. It will have roughly 160 lawyers, 26 of whom are coming from Schreck Brignone.

The merger gives Schreck -Brignone the size to take on bigger projects on a broader scope, said founding partner Frank Schreck.

"My firm has always been right at the top in gaming as Brownstein is in doing high-level corporate commercial real estate and transactional work," Schreck said. "But the projects now are getting so large I really can’t staff them anymore. I wanted to get a critical mass."

Schreck is a former Nevada gaming commissioner whose firm represents some of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos, including Wynn Resorts, MGM Mirage, Mandalay Resort Group, Park Place Entertainment and Harrah’s Entertainment.Schreck client and casino magnate Steve Wynn said his barrister is "soft-spoken and elegant ... a silk-glove guy" who’s "just smart."

"Frank is the guy you want as your representative," Wynn said. "When you’re in an intensely regulated business, the people who represent you are responsible for the impressions you make. ... That’s why personality and style are so important."

Those who know Schreck say he has close relationships with Nevada’s politicians and state officials.

"He has without question become the pre-eminent gaming lawyer in Las Vegas and possibly anywhere in the world," said former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller. "He has a very strong work ethic. I think he has cultivated the respect of people in the regulatory world by always being forthcoming."

On the other side of the ledger, the merger gives Brownstein Hyatt & Farber a strong foothold in the gaming world’s epicenter, Las Vegas, and should bolster their foray into gaming jurisdictions nationally.

"The economic base in Nevada is incredible, and there’s no reason to believe it shouldn’t continue to grow," said founding partner Steve Farber, adding that the firm has been interested in expanding to Las Vegas for several years.

With its new strength in gaming, the firm could become a player in the industry’s growth outside Las Vegas.

In Colorado, for example, casinos are considering a 2008 ballot initiative to eliminate the $5 bet limit at the state’s three gambling towns.

On the Mississippi coast, casino owners are helping lead the area’s rebound from the Katrina hurricane and floods. The state agreed to allow them to rebuild their decimated gambling barges on land.

The current Brownstein firm has clients in the Las Vegas area, including the Greenspun Corp., a media, casino and real-estate company. It also represents the Isle of Capri casino in Black Hawk.

Farber’s partner, Norm Brownstein, has had a connection with Frank Schreck for 20 years. He said they have worked together on casino business in Las Vegas and golfed together in Hawaii.

Brownstein suggested a partnership years ago, but Schreck didn’t become interested until recently as he watched the gaming industry consolidate and deals become more complex.

Schreck and Farber initiated discussions last year during a vacation to Europe. Talks picked up this year with Brownstein Hyatt & Farber chief executive Bruce James and Schreck Brignone managing partner Ellen Schulhofer.

James will remain CEO of the firm and Schulhofer will join the executive committee.

Farber and Schreck each said the firms have similar cultures — "like a family," according to Schreck. Both firms passed over other potential merger partners because their cultures didn’t mesh.