What, if anything, should be done about answers that appear to offer legal advice?
Neither. This supports the suggestion by @Greendrake to just let it go, and ideally it will solve that recurrent issue for good.
Contrary to what one of the answers purports, the sole act of providing "legal advice" on Law SE does not constitute "illegal unlicensed practice of law". Since that answer emphasizes the jurisdiction where Stack Exchange is based (New York), let's take a look at NY law.
Verbiage aside, NY Judiciary Law § 478 prohibits:
- to practice or appear as an attorney for a person other than himself;
in a court of record in this state;
- to furnish attorneys or counsel or an attorney and counsel to render
- to hold himself out to the public as being entitled to practice law
- to advertise the title of lawyer, attorney, or equivalent terms to
convey the impression that he is a legal practitioner of law.
[...] without having first been duly and regularly licensed and admitted to
practice law in the courts of record of this state
That conduct hardly ever occurs (if at all) on Law SE.
Posting an answer on Law SE falls short of practicing or appearing in a court of record. And, personally, I would be surprised (1) if someone on Law SE falsely purports himself as being entitled to practice law when he discusses how the law would apply to an OP's inquiry; or (2) if the author of that answer demands, expects, or accepts payment for providing whatever "legal advice" his answer contains.
Accordingly, NY case law as in Mtr. of N.Y. Co. Lawyers' Assn v. Dacey, 28 A.D.2d 161, 167 (1967) reflects that the crucial issue is whether
we are dealing with the conduct of a person who renders legal services
to the public as a business
(emphasis added). The dissenting opinion makes several good points against sanctioning Dacey, although delving thereon would get us sidetracked.
(Note that NY Judiciary Law § 478 is referred to as section "270 of the Penal Law" in Mtr. of NY County Lawyers Assn. (ROEL), 3 N.Y.2d 224, 229 (1957) and elsewhere).
In an earlier decision, In re Baker, 8 N.J. 321, 339 (1951), the court attempted to refute the defendant's argument that receiving compensation is a necessary element for sanctions. The court's refutation was that
attorneys are appointed by the federal courts to defend indigent
persons, charged with crimes in such courts, and [...] they render such
service without compensation
But if you think about it, that court's refutation is pretty stupid for two reasons. First, because those appointed attorneys evidently hold themselves out to the court that they are licensed to practice law in that jurisdiction (thereby rendering moot the issue of whether or not they get any compensation). And second, because the court itself appoints them to practice law for the benefit of others: namely, the indigent persons charged with crimes in such courts.
The criterion of doing certain acts "as a business" is reflected in other decisions the dissenting opinion points out (at 346):
the substance of the offense is the habitual preparation for a
consideration of legal documents for others," Childs v. Smeltzer,
171 A. 883 (Sup. Ct. Pa. 1934); "to prepare as a business legal
instruments and contracts," People v. Alfani, 227 N.Y. 334, 125 N.E.
671 (N.Y. Ct. of Apps. 1919), People v. Weil, 260 N.Y.S. 658, 237 App.
Div. 118, (N.Y. Sup. Ct., App. Div. 1st Dept., 1932); "* * * the
occasional drafting of simple deeds, and other legal instruments when
not conducted as an occupation or yielding substantial income may fall
outside the practice of the law," In re Opinion of the Justices, 194
N.E. 313 (Sup. Jud. Ct. Mass. 1935).
To summarize: Legal advice that is not given "as a business" and where its author does not falsely purport to be licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction at issue is not illegal.
Consequently, absent the aforementioned premises, there is nothing wrong with posting on Law SE answers which provide or seem to provide "legal advice".