Britain’s third largest mobile phone company has been a triumph for brand designers, and is one of the names that defines the corporate zeitgeist of the late 1990s.

Launched in 1994 as a joint venture between British Aerospace and Hong Kong investment group Hutchison Whampoa, the company’s growth has been led by innovation and clever marketing.

Since its flotation in 1996 it has built the largest network in the UK, with 5,000 base station transmitters. A huge roll-out programme is aiming to double this by 2001. It has offices in France and Germany, and joint ventures in Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.

“The future’s bright, the future’s Orange,” is one of today’s best-known marketing slogans. But in the face of growing competition caused by Vodafone’s merger with US firm AirTouch, the future is also challenging.

At only 38, Mark Paterson heads the company secretariat and legal function.

“We’re a fairly small team, staffed largely by generalists,” says Paterson, a barrister by training.

The legal and company secretariat is split between Bristol and the London office in St James’s Street, where Paterson is based.

London also houses a small international team, led by international general counsel Jenny Wilson, who liaises with Paterson and reports to the chief operating officer of the international business division.

The UK legal function is based in Bristol. It is split into two teams, headed by senior legal advisers Chris Groves and Amanda Doyle.

“There’s a broad split of roles and responsibilities between them, ensuring a balanced and varied view of, and involvement in, the business,” says Paterson.

Groves’ team deals with matters including sales, IP, distribution, regulation and network operations. Doyle’s team work includes customer services, property, litigation, marketing and human resources.

In-house legal work includes commercial, property, employment and litigation matters.

Network-related issues – such as site acquisition, planning law – figure prominently, and Orange has another two lawyers in Manchester and two in London dedicated to such areas.

“We’re fairly heavily resourced in this area because Orange is committed to delivering the best and biggest network.” The in-housers are now pretty hot on planning law. Paterson adds: “After you’ve done 5,000 sites, you’re on a roll.”

Work also focuses on roaming contracts – allowing customers to use other networks when abroad – with more than 150 networks in over 80 countries.

“We’re a business providing an international service – it’s a world market,” says Paterson.

Telecoms law and regulation is “an area where we need to have more than a passing understanding, and this frequently borders on public administrative law,” he says.

Trade mark infringement is also a big issue. “We regard the brand as an absolute core asset of the business, and devote resources to its maintenance and protection,” says Paterson. “Overall, the time spent on this equates to a full-time job for one lawyer.”

Much use is also made of external lawyers, although it’s very much “horses for courses”, says Paterson. The main firms used are Linklaters (which worked on the flotation), Baker & McKenzie, Bristol-based Bevan Ashford and Burges Salmon. Other firms are used according to need, including trade mark and patent agents.

“Apart from technical expertise, we look for responsiveness combined with a willingness to understand the business and technical issues,” says Paterson.

“Working on a big debt issue with people who’ve no idea how a mobile network works can be a nightmare,” he adds.

Mark Paterson
Head of legal, company secretary and general counsel

Organisation Orange
Sector Telecommunications
FTSE 100 ranking Number 27
Market capitalisation Approximately £10bn
Employees 5000
Legal function 18 in total, including two in company secretariat
Head of legal Mark Paterson, company secretary and general counsel
Reporting to Graham Howe, deputy chief executive and finance director
Main location for lawyers London and Bristol
Main law firms Linklaters, Baker & McKenzie, Bevan Ashford, Burges Salmon