Prior to taking on the new role of Head of Americas, James was the firm's Senior Partner, where he played a leading role in its international expansion strategy, establishing new offices in the US, Canada, Spain, Australia and South Africa. James also played a key role in Clyde & Co being recognised as the leading provider of legal services to the global insurance industry. As Head of Americas, he is responsible for overseeing the firm's further growth in the Americas and the continued integration of its offices across Canada, the US and Latin America.

James is widely recognized for his depth of knowledge and understanding of the insurance and reinsurance industry and he regularly assists clients in the drafting of policy wordings. He is experienced in litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution and was identified for "high praise" in the Dispute Resolution section of Legal Business' Fantasy Law Firm article.

James' clients include a number of leading global insurance companies, Lloyd's syndicates, brokers and intermediaries and his work has involved handling claims across the world including in the new and emerging markets of China, Indonesia, Tanzania, Senegal, Zambia, Brazil, Venezuela and Turkmenistan.

James has a wide range of insurance and international trade experience including advising political risk insurers regarding claims and subrogated recoveries arising out of confiscation and contract frustration; directors' and officers' liability; professional indemnity; product liability and recall; marine insurance; offshore and onshore energy construction; and operational policies. He also advises the accident and health/contingency markets on a range of policies including personal accident, professional sports, kidnap and ransom, contingency and workers' compensation.

Featured in the The Lawyer's Hot 100 in 2015 under the 'Leaders' category, he is recognised as someone who has "fearlessly pursued the firm's international expansion" and they described the firm's "international strategy of bolting on neglected insurance teams in top-tier local firms" as "trademark Burns". In April 2016 James was named Management Partner of the Year by Legal Business and was also listed as a leading individual in the 2009 Global Arbitration Review. He is recommended as a notable individual in both the Legal 500 and Chambers legal directories, which comments that James is known as a "commercial operator who can drive a deal."

James is committed to supporting the development of new legal talent at Clyde & Co and, both during his tenure as Senior Partner and in his current role, he has taken a particular interest in establishing new ways to develop young lawyers, including the introduction of a new approach to partner assessment. He is also taking an active role in the firm's ongoing client relationship programmes and is very supportive of the firm's approach to diversity and inclusion. The recent introduction of the Global Diversity Group, which he leads, takes forward the firm's diversity priorities, which include gender diversity in senior roles, cultural diversity at intake and flexible working.