While noting that the Law meta Policy for questions that clearly ask for specific legal advice, promotes the closure of questions appearing to seek real-life/real-time legal advice, but also recognizing the fact that a great many of these questions not only don't get closed, but rather, actually garner substantially higher votes, as well as more meaningful comprehensive answers than true hypotheticals (which tend lack the complexity of real life dilemmas or are often absent necessary and pertinent information), I wonder if we couldn't do one or more things in the absence of voting to close (especially since it doesn't occur uniformly) for that reason alone.
To some extent, only the author truly knows if the situation is real and/or currently relevant. All the enumerated “identifiers” that have been set forth for recognizing a question appearing to seek legal advice, may be merely an inquiry born of an old case they feel was decided incorrectly, or was represented poorly, or possibly is born of an acquaintance's dilemma and they present it here in the first person. My point is, people do speak in the first person and use emotive language even if they are not the subject of the inquiry, if for no other reason than they feel strongly about the issue.
I am not trying to oversimplify the issue, or denounce the current procedure if the community thinks it works. I just want to voice what I have noticed, not only of other peoples', but my own practices as well. Regardless, IMHO I feel it may be intellectually dishonest to single out only a portion of these questions for closure while others not only remain open – but repeatedly thrive – becoming top questions with very comprehensive and at times, top voted answers.
I think the current litmus test for closure is, by its very nature, impossible to be uniformly applied. In wanting to honor policy, sometimes I find myself commenting that the question should be edited to be posed as a hypo, while at the same time, these are the questions I tend to answer over others. I'm not sure if this is because they seem more pressing, or more meaningful. But regardless, I think trend exists.
I do think we should continue to recognize and propagate the communique that seeking legal advice from any type of open forum, to the extent that it's relied upon as a sole or determining factor for legal action or any lack thereof, is a potentially disastrous venture indeed. That said, I do think that there must be a way for this community to continue in this due care, while still allowing questions of this ilk, generally, to not be subjected to potential closure on this criteria alone.
Our disclosures clearly state that this site is for informational purposes and not for specific legal advice, and that if an actual legal issue exists, it is always best to seek licensed counsel. However, I also believe in everyone's right to represent themselves if they see fit, or cannot afford counsel; and, it is those people who need at least a starting point to begin researching the intricacies of their legal issues. If we can help in that endeavor without promoting the practice of detrimental reliance (taking a neutral stance with all due warnings and protective disclosures) I see this as a community benefit rather than a practice to be avoided.
While the concerns that these guidelines are born of are certainly valid, I also think the forewarnings employed are clear. Furthermore, the disclosures protecting both attorney and non-attorney answerers are equitable and clear.
If the trepidation is that someone may not see the site's general disclosures, such that they rely on advice found here to their detriment, maybe they could be placed in a locations even more prominent (like having a truncated version encoded as footer to all questions with a link to the full T&C's)? Another option I wondered about is whether we could simply add to our disclosures something saying that regardless of how a given question is posed, that all questions are hereby assumed to be hypothetical in nature – whether explicitly stated or not – and despite whether written in the first person? I cannot recall, do we have a box that new users check, stating they agree to the terms and conditions before entry?
As a last resort, if none of these are tenable for whatever reason, I wonder if we could just promote editing of first person pronouns, either by the author, the community, or the moderators to make the query read more like a hypothetical. That way if someone posts and then is not around for a few days, rather than their question getting closed, it just gets edited to appear hypothetical.
These are just my opinions and ideas, and as a new user I apologize in advance if these issues were already discussed and rejected for one reason or another. I just thought I would bring up what I have noticed.