The biggest firm in the universe is persuading the headhunters on Wall Street to return its calls. Clifford Chance’s latest US catch is John Graham, head of M&A at King & Spalding, which The Lawyer revealed yesterday evening.

Clifford Chance certainly seems a heck of a lot more realistic nowadays. Gone are the days when it thought it could crack America on the basis of a splashy California launch. It hired a crack team from Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison back in 2002 only to suffer a very public implosion.

Its retreat to the East Coast has created a much happier ship. Stripped of its ambitions to compete with Skadden and Davis Polk on Wall Street, it now comfortably inhabits the solid upper mid-tier in New York.

That is demonstrated by its recent hires, who have come from firms such as Paul Hastings, Chadbourne & Parke and Winston & Strawn. That may not quite set the pulses racing like a hire from, say, Cravath, but Clifford Chance is quite happy to leave that particular recruitment tactic to bitter rival A&O.