The number of new disciplinary matters involving solicitors has increased by 55% this year, Solicitors Regulation Authority papers have revealed.
A report by the regulator's legal and enforcement sector shows 90 new proceedings opened in the first eight months of 2014, compared with 58 in the same period in 2013.
The SRA said analysis will be undertaken to gain a better understanding of the causes of the increase.
The papers, prepared for yesterday's meeting of the regulatory risk committee, also show 189 disciplinary cases were in progress at the end of August.
Meanwhile, a separate paper for the same meeting reported that enforcement issues continue to arise from poor financial management.
Common examples of poor practice include denial of serious financial problems, a ‘blind eye’ turned to problems such as money laundering, and inadequate systems to ensure financial stability.
The SRA said misconduct is not ‘by any means’ confined to smaller firms – and that attempts to deal with larger or established firms tend to lead to 'aggressive defence tactics’.
This can be manifested in Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal cases being expensively fought, backed by insurers prepared to fund the defence.
Larger firms have also made freedom of information requests and complained about staff in order to ‘deflect resources’ or dissuade regulators from bringing cases, the paper said.
It added: ‘These are familiar tactics in the defence of white-collar enforcement action but need to be noted because of the resource implications, including the need not to be intimidated by respondents sometimes with more access to resource than the SRA, and the pressure upon staff.’
The legal and enforcement team has also raised concern about an apparent rise in the number of bogus firms claiming to be authorised.
The number of warnings published on the SRA website between January and the end of August was 128 – in comparison 102 were published in the whole of 2013 and just 21 in 2012.