James was previously Official Secretary to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. He was also the inaugural Freedom of Information Commissioner, a Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and a member of the ACT Remuneration Tribunal. Before that, James worked for 12 years in the Australian Attorney-General's Department. Before joining AGD, he was a judge's associate, then Deputy Registrar of the High Court of Australia.
James has degrees in law and arts, and is admitted as a barrister and a solicitor. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, and an Honorary Professor of the Australian National University (in the College of Law and the College of Engineering and Computer Science) where he conducted his doctoral research in artificial intelligence and law.
- Chief Executive Officer, Law Council of Australia (since 2022)
- Honorary Professor, ANU College of Law and ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science (since 2013)
- Fellow, Australian Academy of Law (since 2021)
- Official Secretary, Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide (2021–2022)
- Official Secretary, Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (2018–2021)
- Member, ACT Remuneration Tribunal (2018–2022)
- Member, Anti-Dumping Review Panel (2018–2021)
- Principal Reviewer, CPM Reviews Pty Ltd (2018)
- Senior Member, Administrative Appeals Tribunal (2015–2017)
- Freedom of Information Commissioner (2010–2014)
- various positions, Australian Attorney-General's Department (1998–2010)
- Deputy Registrar, High Court of Australia (1996–1998)
- Judge's Associate, High Court of Australia (1995)