Remembering Samuel S. Lionel ’40, ‘10HON


Dean Michael A. Simons and the entire St. John’s Law community mourn the passing of alumnus Samuel S. Lionel, whose eight decades of law practice took the Brooklyn native from east to west and up to the heights of the profession as the unofficial Dean of the Nevada Bar.

Sam was just 21 when he graduated from St. John’s Law. After earning five battle stars for his U.S. military service during WWII, he was in private practice in New York for several years before returning to the military as a judge advocate general. Later, he worked at the Pentagon and as a faculty member in West Point’s Department of Law.

Called westward, Sam settled in Las Vegas just as tourists flocked to play the tables and see the headliners at the Sahara, the Sands, and the Riviera. He eventually joined forces with former Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer and their law firm grew to become a state powerhouse, representing clients at the vanguard of the gaming and hospitality industries.

Over the years, as he guided his firm’s success, Sam also accrued professional honors for his expertise in litigation and corporate law. He was named a fellow of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers and served as a member and chairman of Nevada’s Board of Bar Examiners. Sam retired from the full-time practice of law in 2019, when he turned 100.

Whether far or near, Sam remained a proud and loyal St. John’s Law alumnus. In recognition of his steadfast commitment to alma mater, St. John’s awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2010 as well as its highest accolade, the Medal of Honor.

Just this year, Sam and his wife, Lexy Lionel, made a milestone $1 million gift to help St. John’s Law students gain practical experience and make professional connections as participants in the Law School’s popular externship program. The offering is now known as the Lexy and Sam S. Lionel Externship Program.

Thanks to his unwavering generosity, Sam’s legacy lives on at St. John’s Law and in the wider profession. It’s a legacy of service to the greater good, of profound kindness to others, and of a life lived well and to the fullest. We send our deepest sympathies to Lexy and to the extended Lionel family. May Sam’s memory be a blessing, and may he rest in peace.