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RIM's top lawyer joins resignation parade

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The top lawyer at Research In Motion Ltd (RIM-T) has retired and will soon leave the struggling BlackBerry maker, RIM said on Monday. Karima Bawa joins 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 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.

It also precedes what several sources have told Reuters will be a major personnel upheaval this year as the company prepares to launch BlackBerry smartphones running an operating system completely different from that used in its legacy phones.

Bawa joined RIM in 2000. She was promoted to general counsel and chief legal officer in late 2010.

"I thank Karima for her distinguished service," CEO Thorsten Heins in an emailed statement after Reuters asked about Bawa's status. "Karima has been a tireless advocate for RIM's business during more than a decade of hyper growth," he added.

RIM said Bawa planned to stay on to support the hiring and transition of a replacement.

Analysts and former employees have long complained about RIM's cautious corporate attitude, which grew out of a drawn-out patent dispute early in its rise and was exacerbated by the resulting hiring of a slew of in-house lawyers.

RIM is quietly cleaning out layers of management as it simultaneously recruits to fill key roles in a major structural refashioning under Heins, who replaced longtime co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company currently employs around 16,500 people globally.

Two sources have told Reuters that RIM plans to trim its workforce to approximately 10,000 employees by early next year. One said the cuts will affect RIM's legal, marketing, sales, operations, and human resources divisions.

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