The Dreadful Boeing RFP

Boeing How would you like to be judged by the "supplier management group"?  That's what happened to law firms that bid on the October 6, 2006 RFP issued by Boeing & Company.

The RFP was sent to "100+" law firms.  Asked how many firms responded, Bryan Baumeister (the Chief Counsel Airplane Programs, Contacts, Sales, and Marketing & Global Partners in Seattle, WA) would not say.   A gag rule forbade bidders to ask any questions of the in-house lawyers.  If a firm tried, it was disqualified.

Speaking at a program at the Marketing Partner Forum in San Diego, he admitted that there "was a lot of friction between us and our partners," in the process.

A partner at a 400-lawyer firm who participated complained privately, "it was a complete hose job."   Law firms had to bid on 9 areas of law in an 18-column Excel spreadsheet. No doubt this made it easy for the company to merge the files and have a complete database on law firm prices.

All the warning signs were there:

  • Boeing's "supplier management group" -- the purchasing department -- advised on the bid.
  • Boeing hired a national consulting firm to run the RFP.
  • Boeing's goal was to cut spending and reduce the number of outside law firms.
  • Bidders had to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Law firms were notified starting on October 6, the RFP was emailed on the 10th, Boeing held group conference calls (with dozens of competing law firms on the line at the same time) from October 16 to November 16, and responses were due by November 16. Winners were notified on December 15.  The exact number and their identities were kept secret.

The ACC/Serengeti annual survey of in-house counsel reported that nowadays, few law firms respond to RFPs.  Res ipsa loquitur.

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