Regulatory investigations into law firms have increased steadily over the lifetime of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, parliamentary statistics show.

SRA figures requested by justice minister Bridget Prentice in answer to a parliamentary question show that the SRA handled an average of 574 cases per month in 2007, rising to an average of 612 per month in 2008, and 640 per month between January and June this year.

An SRA spokesman said that ‘much of the increase appears to be recession-related’. In 14 cases this year, grounds for intervention included abandonment or bankruptcy, he said.

In total, the SRA undertook 18,062 investigations between January 2007 and June 2009. Following these investigations, regulatory action was taken in 13,963 cases (77%). Sanctions were applied in 2,152 cases (12%), and 1,947 cases (11%) were either referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, or were already subject to ongoing disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, SRA statistics supplied to the Gazette show that between January and August this year, the number of compensation fund claims rose 45% compared with the same period in 2008, while the number of on-site investigations rose by 27% and the number of desk-based casework investigations rose by 13%.

Prentice was answering a series of parliamentary questions asked by Dan Rogerson, Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall.