When Amanda Doyle moved in-house in the ;early 1990s, mobile phones were cumbersome bricks and 3G was still a measurement of weight. Despite this, it was not hard for her future employers to persuade Doyle, then a property lawyer in the South West, that her future was Orange.
“Orange said: ‘Phones aren’t going to be the great blocks they are now. They’re going to have answering machines and messages in text’,” she recalls. “They really had a view of what the mobile phone was going to be – I thought that sounded exciting.”
Her departure from private practice coincided not just with a boom in mobile phone use, but a crash in the real estate market.
“Being a property lawyer in the nineties was the kiss of death,” she says. “I wanted to do something more than property law, which is what took me to this job.”
Doyle is now vice-president for legal and regulatory at Orange UK, which runs the mobile and broadband businesses of the Orange Group. And back in 1991, it was her training as a property lawyer that got her the job.
Orange, which was then known as Microtel, had just been granted a 2G licence allowing it to operate a fully digital network. The company needed to secure enough mast sites to compete with rivals Vodafone and Cellnet in terms of network coverage.
“They were looking for someone with a property background to help them do all the site agreements and put all the masts up. I took a risk on it,” Doyle says.
By the mid-1990s this was no longer a simple task. Reports of masts posing a risk to human health had begun to circulate, leading to an inevitable backlash and comments from outraged residents filling the pages of local newspapers.
Doyle says the company’s approach was the same then as it is now. “The stance is that there are no proven links. We operate within all the required guidelines. It’s not an issue,” she says.
These days Doyle has bigger things on her mind. Orange is revamping its legal panel and has invited all its advisers to retender for contracts.
The company’s preferred firms in the regions are Bevan Brittan, Burges Salmon, Carter Lemon Camerons, Cobbetts, Eversheds and TLT Solicitors. The firms handle property issues, which still take up the lion’s share of Orange’s annual legal spend of £2.5m.
Olswang advises the company on technology issues – such as agreements with mobile virtual network operators that use its network. Olswang’s telecoms team is led by Colin Long.
Field Fisher Waterhouse, meanwhile, has scored the mandate for a case being heard by the Competition Commission on call termination charges. Orange is not one of the main parties, but will be impacted by the result and has turned to competition partner Nick Pimlott.
Mayer Brown is not on Orange’s list of panel firms, but was instructed recently on a site-sharing agreement with Vodafone over the use of the 3G network.
“It has an interesting legal and regulatory aspect in that we’re doing a deal with a major competitor,” says Doyle. “It has involved an awful lot of careful planning and taken more than a year.”
Despite this instruction, Mayer Brown might struggle to attract further work from Orange after losing key telecoms partner Robin Bratby to Olswang in January.
As for the lawyers employed directly by Orange, Doyle leads a team of 19, assisted by three paralegals, and she is looking to grow. The brand is all-important – Doyle recently helped create the company’s mission statement, entitled ‘The Small Guide To Big Business’, setting out its values.
“The brand has a set of values and I expect the team to try and live by them,” she says. “It’s really important to how we operate as a legal team.”
Panel firms should take note.
Name: Amanda Doyle
Company: Orange UK
Position: Vice-president, legal and regulatory
Industry: Mobile phones and internet services
Reporting to: Chief executive Tom Alexander
Legal spend: £2.5m annually
Main law firms: Field Fisher Waterhouse, Olswang
Amanda Doyle’s CV
Education: LLB (Hons), University of WarwickLaw Society Finals, Guildford College of Law
1986-88: Trainee, Blandy & Blandy
1989-91: Solicitor, MacFarlane Guy
1991-95: Legal adviser, Orange1995-2000: Senior legal adviser, Orange
2000-present: Vice-president, legal and regulatory, Orange