Transactional lawyers spent the early months of 2022 catching their breath after a year often described as the best in the history of M&A. Deal volume has ebbed, and the list of factors fueling doubt is longer than it was a year ago.

January was brisk, as principals didn’t fear tax increases in 2022 and felt little need to close transactions by the end of December. But in February, just $296.7 billion in deals were completed, down 33% compared with the prior month and 35% below the recorded value from last February.