James was born in Chicago, IL, on September 25, 1981. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. At Macalester, he graduated Magna Cum Laude, was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society, and was awarded the Case Prize in Western American History.
After college, James founded a property management company and worked for several years in the field of residential construction. James worked as a contractor in St. Paul, Minnesota, Baltimore, Maryland, and eventually moved to New Orleans to help rebuild the city following Hurricane Katrina.
James then attended law school graduating with honors, Cum Laude, from Tulane University Law School in 2011. At Tulane, James served as a Senior Fellow to the Legal Research and Writing first year course. In addition, James was elected as a Senior Board member for his journal, and participated in the Tulane Civil Litigation Clinic. While studying at Tulane, James also worked for several New Orleans defense firms, gaining experience primarily in insurance litigation.