To help reduce legal bills by obtaining discounts and alternative fee arrangements, more and more in-house legal departments are developing preferred providers lists, streamlining the number of law firms that handle their legal matters (sometimes hundreds of law firms) to fewer firms (typically a core group of 50 or fewer). The firms that make it onto these coveted lists are usually those that have been tried and tested, and have a longstanding relationship with the corporation's executives.
I do agree that there are benefits to preferred providers lists. However, there is great concern that these lists act as a barrier of access to minority- and women-owned law firms.
There are several organizations that you can partner and forge relationships with to find diverse outside counsel vendors. A good start is the National Association of Minority & Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). It has more than 80 law firms that are certified as being either a minority- or women-owned business enterprise.
The goal of NAMWOLF is to ensure that minority- and women-owned law firms can fairly compete for outsourced legal work. They have gathered a select group of firms that have exhibited excellence in the legal profession. Part of the criteria for being certified by NAMWOLF is being rated an A-V law firm by Martindale-Hubbell.