Further Information and FAQs for member of the public

The following information for members of the public is available on this page:

If you are an adviser with an advice agency in Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland, click here.

What is the CLAO Highland & Islands service?

The Civil Legal Assistance Office in the Highlands and Islands (CLAO) was set up by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to help address unmet legal need across Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. We will do what we can to help you find a lawyer or advice agency who can give you help with a civil law issue. Where a solicitor is required and we are unable to refer your case to a local solicitor, one of our solicitors may be able to take on the case. This is provided we have the capacity and the case is in one of our areas of capability and expertise.

There are two ways an individual can get help from the CLAO: through a local advice agency or by contacting us directly.

We work with a number of advice/support agencies in Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland including Citizens Advice Bureaux. These agencies might be able to help you and, if you need a lawyer for your case, one of their advisors can contact CLAO and we can help by trying to find you a lawyer.

How do I know if I can use the CLAO Highland & Islands service?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you can contact CLAO Highland & Islands for help:

  • I live in Highland, Moray, Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland
  • I have a civil legal problem (a legal problem that is not to do with the criminal law)
  • I have been told I need a lawyer or I am unsure whether or not I need a lawyer
  • I have tried unsuccessfully to find a lawyer or I don’t know how to find a lawyer


What will happen when I contact CLAO Highland & Islands?


  • You will be asked to provide us with your contact details and also for financial information so that we can assess your legal aid eligibility. We will also ask you for a brief summary of what the issue is
  • You will have to give us your name and contact details as we do not deal with anonymous queries
  • CLAO will assess your legal aid eligibility
  • If you appear to qualify for legal aid and have a legal issue, CLAO will try to refer you to a local solicitor

CLAO may signpost you by giving you contact details for local solicitors and agencies, if you do not appear to qualify for legal aid, or, if the matter is not a legal issue

CLAO might consider representing you if it is has not been possible to refer you to a local solicitor. This depends on the nature of the case, and if we have capability and capacity to take the case on.

What areas of work do CLAO Highland & Islands undertake?

Our office deals with general civil legal issues, but our focus is on family and child law, mental health and legal problems caused by the economic downturn including defending repossessions, mortgage and secured loan arrears, debt, defending evictions, housing problems and homelessness, landlord and tenant disputes and sequestration (bankruptcy).

There are a few areas we don’t cover, such as accident and compensation claims, professional negligence claims, disputes concerning land or buildings/construction work, and some specialised areas of civil law. However, we can still refer these types of cases to solicitors in private practice

For details on what is involved in using a solicitor click Using a Solicitor

How do I contact CLAO Highland & Islands?

Members of the public can use telephone or email to contact us.

Telephone:     0845 123 2353


Please note that CLAO Highland & Islands does not offer a drop in service. You will not be able to speak to a solicitor if you come to the office without contacting us beforehand to arrange an appointment. Please contact us by phone or email and we can assess what we can do to assist you.

Information about Appointments with a CLAO Highland & Islands Solicitor

If we have advised you that we are considering taking on your case you might be offered an appointment with one of the CLAO solicitors. Our offices are up two flights of stairs and there is no lift access. If you are given an appointment at our office, please let us know if you have any mobility problems and we can arrange to meet you at an alternative location which is accessible.  We try to be flexible about appointments so if you have any problems attending an appointment you can phone us as soon as possible to try and arrange an alternative. If you fail to attend an appointment without good reason, or rearrange several times without good reason, then we may not be able to assist you any further.

If you are offered an ‘emergency’ appointment it will be because your legal issue needs urgent action. If you miss an emergency appointment, that may mean that it is then too late to do the legal work needed to resolve your problem and a new appointment may not be possible.

You should bring any legal paperwork which relates to your case to the appointment. When coming to a first appointment, you should also bring a form of photographic ID such as a driving licence or passport and proof of your address (i.e. bank statement, benefit award letter or utility bill dated within the last 3 months).

The rules of legal aid mean that we have to check your financial position at the first meeting. You  must bring confirmation of any income and capital including any savings or investments. It is important that you bring the financial information as we may not be able to do any work for you until we have seen this. If you are not sure what to bring you can call the office first to check.