Civil legal aid applications have risen by 24% over the last year, reaching their highest level in a decade.
The Scottish Legal Aid Board said financial pressures arising from the recession were likely to be at least partly responsible for the rise.
Legal aid allows people who would otherwise not be able to afford it to get help for their legal problems.
Among the 22,000 cases, there were a significant number of family, debt and mortgage rights cases.
Lindsay Montgomery CBE, chief executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, said: "It is clear that solicitors have responded to the larger number of people needing help during the recession as financial and other pressures increase on families.
"This substantial increase in applications has been very challenging for the board, however we have managed to achieve our performance targets without any increase to our administrative budget."
From 2008-2009 the total government expenditure on legal aid, legal advice and assistance was £42.6m.