In 1977 at the World Future Society conference in Boston, Ken Olsen, Chief Executive Officer of Digital Equipment Corporation, predicted that ''there is no place for the computer in the home.'' At the time, Mr. Olsen and DEC were the darlings of Wall Street. Many observers expected DEC to overtake IBM as the world's leading computer company. So much for predictions from experts.

Given how far off most experts have been at predicting the future, it is with some trepidation that I venture to make this guess: in the next two decades, managing partners of law firms will become chief executives in the truest sense of the term. So what's the big deal about that? In our consulting work with law firms worldwide, no one factor is as important to the success of a law firm as strong leadership at the top. But in firm after firm, either the partners will not give real authority to anyone to lead the firm, or no partner is considered capable of assuming the role of strong leader. This void leads firms to drift at best and fail at worst.

One has only to look at some of the very successful firms over the past decades to appreciate the results of strong leadership: Sam Butler at Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Geoffrey Howe at Clifford Chance
is a Midwest, regional firm that grew to national and then international recognition. Clifford Chance is the product of a merger of two prominent London City firms and has become one of the leading international law firms in the world. They all have one thing in common—a tradition of producing strong leaders.