Forty Under 40: Christopher James
Shareholder Attorney, Davis Brown Law Firm
Friday, March 07, 2014 7:00 AM
Since joining the Davis Brown Law Firm in 2008, Christopher James has built a practice in corporate and tax law, specializing in tax controversies.
Mentor: Bill Boatwright, senior shareholder, Davis Brown Law Firm
You would think that with all of his musical background, one piece of music would stand out as a favorite. Not so. “It comes and goes,” James said.
His clients have included Facebook Inc. and Wellmark Holdings Inc. In property tax cases alone, he has reduced assessments by more than $30 million. And if his clients ever sing the taxman blues, well, he can accompany them on guitar.
It was music that led James to the legal profession.
A North Carolina native, he attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro specifically to study under one professor. His goal was to become a concert pianist.
As James said, the not-so-natural progression from the concert hall to the courtroom came after the professor told him that although he was a “fine” pianist, he probably wasn’t good enough to make a living as a performer.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, James said hello to the Drake University Law School, where he was an Opperman Scholar, vice president of the student bar association, and managing editor of the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law.
James also is one of the roughly 5 percent of U.S. attorneys who holds the Master of Laws degree, which is typically sought by lawyers wanting to specialize in a particular area of law.
He also has developed an expertise in international law. At present, he is the sole author of the international tax section of the Iowa State Bar Association’s tax manual.
Music remains an important part of his life, although the recent adoption of a 5-month-old boy has cut into his practice time on the piano. He also plays a range of musical styles on the guitar. He has made two trips to Uganda to foster music education with AIDS orphanages and local churches. Among the continuing contributions to that effort is an annual supply of batteries to operate compact disc players.
“They wanted to experience Western music,” he said.
Reasons he’s a Forty:
• A founding board member and pro bono legal counsel for My Angel Foundation
• Graduate of the 2012 class of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, and current member of the board
• Helped form an industry practice group at Davis Brown that focuses on companies associated with emerging technology
• Has served as a team leader for the Drake Law Clinic’s volunteer income tax assistance program
• Member of United Way of Central Iowa’s Education Leadership Initiative
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