The Kronos effect and some applications regarding law departments: eat what you kill with a different spin!

Kronos, the second ruler of the universe according to Greek mythology, learned from the Delphic oracle that one of his children would dethrone him. Prudently, Kronos proceeded to eat his children. That vivid image of incestuous cannibalism, the opposite of succession planning and embracing competition, has several applications for law departments.

Entrenched law firms, ruling the relationship with a client and its law department, will try to eliminate firms that seek to overthrow that incumbency. An insecure general counsel might surreptitiously or even overtly undermine possible successors; if there is no one internally to replace you, no coup d’état can happen. In the many sectors of the cottage industry around law departments, Kronos thrives and has a big appetite. Market competition shows up many ways but one of them is to swallow (buy or wipe out) a company that would elbow into your turf.

The Kronos effect comes from Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Knopf 2010) at 25. Wu invokes it repeatedly and effectively to describe how the companies at the top of the pole in information industries throttled up-and-comers, often by costly litigation or intrusive regulation.

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