Merger activity has dropped in the past six months and is not likely to pick up over the coming year, a regular six-monthly survey has indicated.
The poll, the ninth in a series by the Law Consultancy Network, shows a decline in the number of firms believing there was a good or definite chance of a merger in the next six months - down from 26% to 16% of respondents.
Fewer firms had completed a merger in the past six months - 18% compared with 24% six months ago.
With the exception of the six months to December 2013, the figures show a steady decline in merger interest since the summer and autumn of 2011.
Commenting on the results, the survey's author, consultant Andrew Otterburn, said: 'There has been much talk of mergers in recent years, and a number of significant mergers have taken place, but the reality for many firms is that a merger is unlikely and could even be a counter-productive distraction.'
He rejected the notion that the decline was down the fact that most firms wanting to merge had all already done so, attributing it instead to 'a degree of realism' among partners.
'The reality is that it is quite hard to find the right firm to merge with. It is often much easier to acquire individuals or teams rather than a whole firm,' he said.
However he said that there are still opportunities: 'The starting point as always is having a clear business strategy and the means to deliver it.'
But he added: 'Many firms still lack this basic starting point - a plan and effective leadership.'
The survey was based on questionnaires from 43 firms with a median size of eight partners.