Chaos theory studies phenomenon where small changes in the initial conditions result in major changes in consequences (a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil famously results in a hurricane off Bermuda). As used for physical systems, chaos events are non-linear: they are not wildly unpredictable and mysterious – the popular notion of chaos – but they have emergent properties much different than our minds easily grasp. Feedback loops account for some of the unexpected outcomes and unpredictable.
A word of advice from an in-house lawyer early in the deliberations over a pricing decision could have massive consequences years later (antitrust investigation avoided; millions in profits rightfully earned). A well-timed settlement offer takes the company down one path; botched, the bills and vexations pile up for years. If we borrow the metaphor of non-linear systems and apply them to legal teams, we risk mis-applying it, which is the lesson of Stephen E. Kellert, Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos theory and the challenge of learning across disciplines (Univ. Chic. 2008). Even so, such a power idea, caught as a conceptual metaphor, can help us understand and describe some things that happen to law departments.