The tough-tackling midfielder joined Hamilton Academical as a youth player in 2003. He made his debut in 2005 and quickly became a first team regular, helping the side to win promotion to the Scottish Premier League at the end of season 2007/08.
His performances attracted interest from a host of clubs and he signed for English Premier League side Wigan Athletic in July 2010.
James won his first Scotland cap as a substitute in a 3-0 friendly win over Faroe Islands in November 2010. He got his first start, and goal, in a 3-0 Carling Nations Cup win over Northern Ireland in February 2011.