Karima Bawa is the vice-president, legal, and general counsel of RIM. Having joined RIM in 2000, she currently oversees a team of almost 50 lawyers and numerous other support staff. In addition to being involved in almost all litigation matters, she also ensures that RIM software and products have appropriate intellectual property protections and are effectively commercialized through marketplace agreements.
“RIM added over 125 new distribution partners during the past year, which is approximately one new partner every other business day,” she said. “Each of those relationships must be supported with commercial terms and conditions that satisfy RIM’s corporate goals, and my team plays an integral role in achieving win-win agreements with those partners.”
Ms. Bawa’s job is only getting more complex as RIM settles in new markets, acquires new companies and adds new partners. To accommodate, Karima has had to evolve the company’s legal structure.
“One of RIM’s key underlying objectives for many years, and last year was no different, has been to continue to prepare the organization for larger and larger scale,” she said, “so that RIM is able to capitalize on growing market opportunities.
“Such growth is naturally accompanied by compounded complexities that require significant diligence and require my team to be thoughtful business managers as well as legal advisers.”
One of Karima’s most recent battles was managing a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Ontario Securities Commission in connection with RIM’s stock option granting practices. Before the settlement, Jim Balsillie voluntarily resigned as Chairman after RIM’s own internal audit. Following the SEC and OSC ruling, RIM executives repaid tens of millions of dollars to settle stock-option allegations dating back to 1996.
This wasn’t the only thing Ms. Bawa was doing at the time either. While settling with the SEC and OSC, Ms. Bawa managed several patent litigation matters and provided other general counsel duties during a period of substantial growth for the company.
Even given the quick pace of her work, Ms. Bawa said she enjoys her job.
“I enjoy the ability to consider and work on diverse legal issues,” she said, “and I think I have been successful at it because I have always tried to ground myself with a conscious understanding of the company’s objectives, and I surround myself with strong, multidisciplinary teams with diverse legal backgrounds.”
Of the past year, she said, “in terms of outcome, RIM and its partners enjoyed another strong year of substantial growth based on solid business execution across the company, so I feel pretty good about our collective success.”
With RIM making a worldwide push for App World, Ms. Bawa will be more than busy in the coming months.
[Bruce Gillespie, FP]