RIM’s top lawyer joins parade of resignations

The top lawyer at Research In Motion Ltd. has resigned and will soon leave the struggling BlackBerry maker, RIM said on Monday, joining a parade of long-time company executives to depart since Thorsten Heins took over as CEO earlier this year.

The loss of chief legal officer Karima Bawa — who litigated numerous patent disputes and helped write many of RIM’s commercial deals — follows the resignation of RIM’s head of global sales, Patrick Spence, last week.

The resignations come ahead of what are expected to be massive layoffs this year as the company prepares to launch BlackBerry smartphones run by an operating system completely different from that used in its legacy phones.

RIM’s shares have fallen some 75 per cent in the last year while its market share has shriveled against competition from iPhone maker Apple Inc and a slew of manufacturers using Google Inc’s Android operating system.

Bawa, who joined RIM in 2000, was promoted to general counsel and chief legal officer in late 2010. RIM said in a statement Bawa planned to stay on to support the hiring and transition of a replacement.

Analysts and former employees have long complained about what they viewed as a hyper-cautious corporate approach at RIM. That grew out of a drawn-out patent dispute early in the company’s rise and was exacerbated by the hiring of a slew of in-house lawyers afterwards.

RIM is quietly cleaning out layers of management and recruiting new people to fill important roles in a new structure being fashioned under Heins, who himself replaced longtime co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company currently employs around 16,500 people globally. Two sources with close connections to RIM have told Reuters that RIM plans to bring its workforce closer to 10,000 by early next year.

The sources asked to go unidentified because their disclosures would hurt their relationships with RIM.

The cuts will affect RIM’s legal, marketing, sales, operations, and human resources divisions, one of the sources said.

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