Keoghs is nearing completion of a deal that will see the firm acquire 16 partners and 400 fee-earners and business services staff from Hill Dickinson’s insurance group.

The two firms announced in August they were in talks to transfer the group to Keoghs from Hill Dickinson’s offices in Liverpool, London and Manchester by the end of January 2018.

Keoghs already has offices in Manchester and London and will now sub-let premises in Liverpool from Hill Dickinson as part of the deal.

This is Hill Dickinson’s second significant departure this year following a 24-lawyer departure to Kennedys in March. The firm lost three partners in that transaction.

The departure does not affect any of Hill Dickinson’s marine insurance and clinical negligence businesses, which it says have “always been undertaken separately to the general insurance work”.

Managing partner Peter Jackson told The Lawyer: “We’ll certainly be staying in the niche insurance markets we’ve developed and we now hope to be able to grow those, particularly in health and marine. What we won’t be doing are the more commoditised lines of business that Keoghs has taken.

“We’re looking to grow our commercial business, which has been our fastest growing for the last three years and generated just over £41m last year.”

In a statement, Keoghs CEO John Whittle said: “When combined with our recent office openings in Southampton, London and Glasgow, this acquisition is the latest investment to enable us to deliver on our vision of becoming the pre-eminent legal services provider for the UK insurance industry.

“In the current climate of consolidation within insurance law, investment in people, technology and infrastructure are the key factors to enable success.

“Keoghs are at the forefront of driving market change and are determined to put clear blue water between us and our competitors.”

Data from The Lawyer UK 200, shows that Hill Dickinson partners numbers will drop from 139 to 123 in another turn in a year of upheaval for the firm. Once the deal goes through, Hill Dickinson’s total headcount will drop by 40 per cent from just over 1,000.

A management restructure late last year saw managing partner Peter Jackson become the firm’s first CEO while senior partner David Wareing became chairman. Alterian deputy chairman Iain Johnston was named as Hill Dickinson COO in the restructuring.