Justice Yates graduated in law from the Sydney Law School in 1977. In that year, he undertook his practical legal training at the College of Law, St Leonards and commenced practice as a solicitor with Sly & Russell in Sydney.
He was appointed as an Associate Partner in 1980. In 1982, he was called to the New South Wales Bar, where he practised primarily in the areas of intellectual property law and competition law. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 1997. He was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2009 and is located in the New South Wales District Registry of the Court.
In 2016, he was appointed as a Deputy President of the Australian Competition Tribunal.