Chris Lea retired from full-time law practice in early 2018. Mr. Lea graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1981 (Economics and Business majors) and earned his J.D. from Southern Methodist University in 1984. Upon graduation, Mr. Lea joined the Chicago law firm of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd (now KL Gates), where he was a member of the antitrust and trade regulation practice group. While at Bell, Boyd, Mr. Lea worked on antitrust matters related to mergers and acquisitions and the Robinson-Patman Act, including several landmark cases, such as U.S. v. Waste Management, Copperweld v. Independence Tube and the Boise Cascade Office Products Litigation. Beginning in 1987, Mr. Lea developed an expertise in "promotional marketing law." In 1992 he established his own practice, which was limited exclusively to advertising and promotional marketing law matters.
Mr. Lea represented Kraft in the "Ready to Roll" litigation, in which due to a printing error, instead of circulating a few "rare" game pieces, virtually every person who purchased a package of cheese obtained a "winning match" to a newspaper advertisement. Under plaintiffs' theory of the case, Kraft could have been liable for $11 billion dollars. (The case was settled for less than $10 million.) Mr. Lea continued to represent Kraft until his retirement as its sole outside promotional legal counsel.
Mr. Lea also provided counsel to McDonald's Corporation with respect to problems related to a fraudulent conspiracy by an outside consultant, whereby a group of conspirators fraudulently stole high-value winning game pieces in the "Monopoly" and other similar match and win games over an extended period. In 2004 Mr. Lea formed a partnership to create Lea + O'Reilly based in Chicago, with a practice limited to promotional marketing law.
In addition, to Kraft and McDonald's, some of Mr. Lea's other clients included PepsiCo, Unilever, ConAgra and various marketing agencies. Mr. Lea also served as a Director of Paper Converting Machine Co., until 2005 when the firm was acquired. PCMC was headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with plants and offices located in the U.S., England, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
Prior to retirement, Mr. Lea was actively involved in the Promotion Marketing Association, and its successor organizations, and served on both the Law Conference and Legal Committees since 1992, and was a frequent speaker, and former Co-Chair, at PMA's Promotion Marketing & Law Conference, the leading legal conference in its field.
Mr. Lea has been coming to Jackson since the late 1970s.In 2015 he and his partner, Donald Hughes, made the full-time plunge and both became full-time residents of Wyoming in 2016. Mr. Lea spends considerable time on the National Board of Directors of The Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco. He also serves on the Northern Rockies Advisory Board of the Trust for Public Land, which encompasses Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Local projects in Jackson have included the saving of the Hoback Basin, creation of Astoria Park and acquisition of the Upper Gros Ventre River Ranch. Literally millions of acres have been conserved by the work of the Trust for Public Land throughout the nation. In his spare time, Mr. Lea enjoys golf, hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing. Mr. Lea’s partner, and now husband, enjoys many of these activities, but is especially fond of horse back riding.