The "Directions Hearing" was held on 11 September, 2009. This was a meeting in a "chamber" of the High Court where representatives from both sides meet with a judge and hash out the timeline and type of trial. Standen's hired gun Catriona Smith showed up in her uptight lawyer garb. Brisk and with a professional cheeriness, she seemed confident she could easily wipe the floor against an aging punk rock chick who at that point was acting alone without a lawyer as a "Litigant in Person".
To her surprise, I turned up dressed the same way as her - like a corporate bitch. They say clothes make the man - well it makes the woman too.
I splashed out as much I could afford on a halfway decent suit from Debenhams. I got the jacket from Primark. For weeks I was busy and had prepared detailed color-coded charts. I had scoured the internet for authoritative information. This was all to support my contention that Gearslutz as a Dot.com could not be valued like a normal brick and mortar site.
I also had to convince the judge that the case should be a "Multi-track" as opposed to the "Fast track trial" which my opponent had insisted upon. Fast track is for claims with a value of between £10,000 and £25,000. With a net annual income that approached £90K annually and a trajectory toward exponential future growth, I knew GS was worth a lot more. In fact, the site takes in revenues of about £200,000($300,000) annually today.
With unpaid voluntary moderators and low running costs, it's like a virtual e-laundromat where all Standen has to do is collect the money.
The entire strategy of Standen's defense was to downplay its worth. In 2009 the stuffy British legal system was not up to speed on the fact that websites were not valued like bricks and mortar but based upon speculation of its future worth. In that sense, they are more akin to stocks or real estate than ordinary businesses.
My opponent's lawyers banked on the idea that I couldn't afford decent valuers hence they could drive down the valuation of the site through their access to top-notch expensive forensic accountants. I was outgunned by their formidable resources.
Therefore I proposed that we should have a "split trial". This means the trial takes place in two parts of "Liability" and "Quanta". The Liability trial decides my co-ownership claim. The Quanta trial decides how much my share is worth. At that point, Standen had still not admitted that I was anything more than a hired gun.
If I could get this confirmed by a Judge at trial, I might find a decent website valuer on a CFA basis. Therefore I pleaded to the judge that the conclusion of the first trial would put both parties in a better position to settle out of court, save the court's time and the taxpayers money. On the other hand, if I lost, there'd be no need for a costly valuation, hence again we would save time and money.
My hard work and preparation paid off. Deputy Master Smith agreed that a split trial made sense. He also agreed that Gearslutz was worth more than my opponent claimed and so the case was to be "Multi-tracked". Hence a trial window was fixed for 14 June 2010 to be heard in front of a judge.
Catriona Smith frowned deeply. She didn't look happy. This would not be the easy slam dunk she had expected.
As I left the hearing, a tall, young court Steward in a smart suit with slightly messy hair confided to me just how astonished he was that I got my way over a solicitor of Ms. Smith's caliber and reputation. According to him "I can't believe how you just walked in and kicked her arse."
He shook his head incredulously.