Berrymans Lace Mawer has lost more than half of its Liverpool-based commercial department to a rival North West firm.
Brabner Holden Banks Wilson is taking on six equity partners - Sandy Gill, Terry Montague, Andrew Scorah, Neil McBurney, Jacqueline Lloyd and Jeff Gillbanks - who are expected to leave Berrymans by the end of the year.
Berrymans is predominantly an insurance firm. One Liverpool lawyer says the interests of the commercial practice represent only a small part of the firm's overall plans.
Local sources say that the commercial practice has been sidelined since a merger with Lace Mawer in 1997 to create the largest UK insurance law firm.
In July, the Manchester office's head of commercial litigation Tony Brook left to set up his own firm.
And Berrymans has been undergoing a cost-cutting exercise. It has relocated its London accounts department to Manchester after a review by accountancy giants Deloitte & Touche.
It has also been hit by the industry-wide panel cuts and fee reductions by large insurance companies. It was briefly suspended from the Axa panel earlier this year (The Lawyer, 24 January).
Brabner, on the other hand, is active in corporate work. Its clients include chemical manufacturer DSM Resins, Lion Foods and Rage Software.
Paul Taylor, national senior partner at Berrymans, says: "We're already looking at a number of options to increase and strengthen the commercial practice. We want to provide a commercial service which matches the national nature of the firm."