Sean Gates

Founder and Shareholder

I am a trial lawyer who represents companies in commercial litigation and a former “big law” partner who decided to cut a different path. After 20 years with some of the leading national firms and a stint as a government enforcer, I founded Charis Lex to bring my brand of hands-on, principled advocacy to a wider range of businesses.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few folks say nice things about my work. I was described as a “talented litigator” with an “excellent attention to detail,” “who efficiently manages discovery with an eye toward summary judgment and trial” in Chambers USA. I was named an “Attorney of the Year” by California Lawyer. I have been listed in Best Lawyers for antitrust law, designated a Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation for commercial and antitrust litigation, and ranked among the Southern California Super Lawyers. I’ve been called a “real trial lawyer.”

Although I’ve tried cases involving a range of issues—such as stock option contracts, trade secrets, fraudulent conveyances, and patent infringement damages—I have a particular expertise in antitrust. I am one of a handful of lawyers nationwide who has tried multiple antitrust cases. I had the honor of serving as a deputy assistant director at the Federal Trade Commission, leading enforcement actions challenging anticompetitive conduct. I received the Distinguished Service Award for my work at the FTC.

I take my craft seriously. Trial skills and substantive legal expertise don’t just happen. I am a graduate of the ABOTA Trial Academy. I served as an instructor in Mock Trial Advocacy at the Georgetown University Law Center. I regularly publish on substantive issues. In addition, I serve in the leadership of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law and have been a non-governmental advisor to the International Competition Network.

Prior Experience

  • Morrison & Foerster, Partner (2008-2016)
  • Federal Trade Commission, Deputy Assistant Director, Attorney (2004-08)
  • Munger, Tolles & Olson, Associate (1999-2004)
  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Associate (1996-98)


  • Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Clerk to Judges Wallace and Rymer (1998-99)

Non-Legal Employment

  • Project Engineer, Exxon U.S.A. (1990-92)
  • Development Engineer, Allied-Signal Aerospace (1989-90)
  • Infantry Officer/ Enlisted Aircrew Member, U.S. Army National Guard (1987-93)


  • University of California, Hastings College of the Law (J.D., summa cum laude, 1996)
  • University of California, Berkeley (B.S., 1989)

Representative Matters

  • Beckman Coulter v. Quidel Corp.: Lead counsel for diagnostic healthcare product manufacturer in antitrust challenge to exclusive dealing agreement. Won writ of mandate at Court of Appeal.
  • Realcomp II Ltd.: Lead trial counsel for the FTC in challenge to rules set by a real estate broker joint venture. Won unanimous Commission decision.

  • Union Oil Company Of California: Trial counsel for FTC in 43-day monopolization trial involving patents covering reformulated gasoline. Obtained complete relief through consent decree.
  • Rambus Inc.: Trial counsel for respondent in 54-day trial of monopolization claims involving patents and standard setting. Obtained dismissal of all claims.
  • Zilincik v. Tesla Motors: Lead trial counsel for defendants in 6-week breach of contract trial involving employee stock options.
  • Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop and Jack Phillips: Lead trial counsel for defendants in widely publicized free speech and religious freedom case.
  • 1-800 Contacts, Inc.: Co-counsel for respondent in five-week antitrust trial challenging settlements of trademark litigation. Client prevailed on appeal in the Second Circuit.
  • American Reprographics Co. v. Crisp Enterprises: Co-lead trial counsel for plaintiff in 3-week trade secrets case. Settled on appeal.

Just a poor, wayfaring stranger.

I am a lawyer, happily married to my wife Andrea for nearly 25 years, and the father of four. Andrea and I (really Andrea) have homeschooled our children through high school. We live in the City of Glendale, just north of downtown Los Angeles.

Above all else, I am a Christian. That means something very different to different people. To me it means life; I have been redeemed from sin and despair through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who is God of very God. I don’t deserve this. As an old hymn says, “I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known, nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own.” Accordingly, my desire is to walk in a manner worthy of this calling, leading a quiet life and reflecting His love.

What’s with the name? Charis is the Greek word for grace (χάriς). It is used in the New Testament to describe God’s unmerited favor toward His redeemed. Lex is the Latin word for law. The firm name is thus a reminder to live, and practice law, coram Deo—before the face of God.


  • Co-Author, Antitrust Adviser (5th ed. 2019)
  • Editor-in-Chief, Handbook on Antitrust Aspects of Standard Setting (2d ed. 2011).
  • Editor-in-Chief, Intellectual Property and Antitrust Handbook (2007).
  • Chapter Author, Handbook on the Antitrust Aspects of Standards Setting (2004).

Law Reviews


I am no civil rights lawyer, but I do believe you should not “withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” As a lawyer, I have been entrusted by the State with a unique power to effect good.

Here are a few examples of my pro bono work:

  • In re Rachel L.: Amicus counsel in appellate case involving homeschooling regulation. Prior to our involvement, the Court of Appeal ruled in a way that would have devastated homeschooling in California. We provided the court with social science research, which helped lead to the complete reversal of the court’s prior opinion. In re Rachel L., 73 Cal. Rptr. 3d 77 (Ct. App. 2008), vacated, Jonathan L. v. Super. Ct., 81 Cal. Rptr. 3d 571 (Ct. App. 2008).
  • Azua v. City Of Parlier: Lead counsel in civil rights action, representing a passenger in car who was shot twice in the back by police officers. Case settled.
  • Does v. Pure Forest LLC: Lead counsel in human trafficking case, representing five H-2 visa workers who were threatened by armed foremen, denied wages, and forced to work grueling hours. Case settled.
  • Reed v. State: Co-lead counsel in civil rights action against the Los Angeles school district challenging teacher layoffs that disproportionately affected struggling inner city schools. Obtained preliminary injunction. Won approval of consent decree.