When most lawyers talk about a big year, they can point to one case or one deal as a highlight. Edward Herlihy can point to the whole reel. Riding a wave of consolidation in the banking industry, Herlihy, a partner with New York’s Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, posted numbers last year that no lawyer, and few law firms, came close to matching. With partner Craig Wasserman, Herlihy represented principals in four of the six biggest banking deals of the year–and in two of those megamergers, he represented both parties to the deal. In all, Herlihy, 51, was lead counsel in five of the top 20 deals of the year; their aggregate value was roughly $158 billion. Nice work if you can get it.

And Herlihy gets that work, his clients and competitors say, by having a reputation for getting big deals done with a minimum of complications. Says H. Rodgin Cohen of New York’s Sullivan & Cromwell, Herlihy’s principal rival for work on big banking deals: “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have working across from me on a friendly deal–or anyone I’d less like to have working against me. He’s great with clients and on the law.”

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