Doug James Practitioner Profile in July 2019 Bankruptcy Newsletter

Doug James has been a frequent practitioner in the Bankruptcy Court since 1984. A Great Falls native, Doug gravitated to bankruptcy law, in part, because his father, Ted James, was a partner with bankruptcy referee Orville Gray. But Doug almost killed a bankruptcy career before it started.

Doug comes from a long line of politicians. His father, Ted, was the Montana Lieutenant Governor from 1964 to 1968 and was the Chairman of the Board of Regents from 1973-1982. His maternal grandfather, Sam Ford, was the Montana Attorney General from 1917 to 1921, a justice on the Montana Supreme Court from 1929 to 1933, and Governor from 1940 to 1948. Doug’s maternal grandmother’s grandfather was the governor of Kentucky and a Territorial Governor of Montana.

Doug was born and grew up in Great Falls, graduating from CMR in 1975. Doug graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1979 with a degree in African History. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1982.

It was while he was in law school, that Doug nearly blew his bankruptcy career before it began. As a bankruptcy lawyer wannabe, Doug took the only bankruptcy class offered at the Law School. During one of his bankruptcy classes, his bankruptcy professor, Ronald MacDonald (who went on to become a bankruptcy judge in Alaska), lectured his class on bankruptcy priorities. When he concluded, he warned the class that if anyone had questions about priorities, they couldn’t ask questions then, but had to call him at home. Later, in the same lecture, Professor MacDonald called on Doug to answer a question. Doug responded by telling the Professor to call him at home. Doug reports that his classmates sitting near him immediately moved away. Doug brought a drop slip to the next bankruptcy class but Professor MacDonald apologized and urged Doug to remain in the class. Doug also apologized and remained in the class.

After law school Doug went to work for the Securities Regulation Department of the Montana Auditor’s Office. In 1984 Doug started at Moulton Bellingham and began as a chapter 7 trustee. Other than two debtor cases, and a few cases representing trustees, Doug’s bankruptcy practice has been as creditor’s counsel. Those who have faced Doug in court know that he is always well prepared and is familiar with the facts and the law.

Doug says his best bankruptcy experience was in the Moonlight Basin chapter 11 case because he was able to work cooperatively with debtor’s counsel; according to Doug, his client, Lehman Brothers and its New York counsel, were shocked by level of cooperation between counsel in Montana.

Doug is active in public affairs. He is a former member of the Billings Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustments. He is a past President of the Alberta Bair Theater. He served on the Billings Public Library Foundation. Currently, Doug is on the Board of Visitors of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law and he is on the University of Montana Foundation Board, now acting as chair of the Development Committee which is nearing the successful completion of a $400 million capital campaign.

Doug loves to travel. He and his wife Kathy routinely travel at home and abroad. He is usually planning his next travel adventure.

One of Doug’s proudest professional experiences is the many adoptions he has completed pro bono. Doug has given much of his time for adoptions. Another important experience is the establishment of numerous scholarships at the Alexander Blewett School of Law by Doug and his wife Kathy; the list of scholarships includes the Bankruptcy Judges’ Scholarship, The Ted James Memorial Law Scholarship, The Mike Webster Memorial Law Scholarship, and the Class of 1982 Law Scholarship. Doug and Kathy are truly “paying it forward” with their time and money.

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