The number of prosecutions opened against solicitors fell dramatically in the first quarter of 2013.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Legal & Enforcement division issued just 17 Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal cases in the first three months of this year, compared with 62 in the same period in 2012.

The reduction comes as the L&E division has managed to cut the number of prosecution cases open from 473 in March 2012 to 282 in March 2013.

In a board paper prepared for next Tuesday’s regulatory risk committee meeting, the SRA said the new era of outcomes-focused regulation was starting to take effect. It is understood the SRA has prioritised assisting firms with regulatory issues in recent months rather than automatically starting disciplinary action.

The paper said the reduction was not surprising when ‘taking into account the constructive engagement being undertaken by supervision and the embedding of risk based regulation by the SRA’.

The paper continued: ‘It is to be expected that SDT prosecutions will focus on areas of greatest risk’ for example ‘serious misconduct and those cases where firms and individuals fail or refuse to co-operate with their regulator.’

Meanwhile, 19 firms are in the running to join the SRA’s litigation panel after applications closed last month.

The successful applicants will deal with court proceedings arising from interventions, regulatory appeals, defending and pursuing claims on behalf of the SRA and providing legal advice.

A total of 93 firms registered to apply, and 19 firms submitted bids. Bids will be evaluated and a shortlist drawn up for interviews before appointments are made before 1 June.