James R. Dowd was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City, graduating in 1973 with a B.A. in Political Science. He then attended St. Mary's University Law School where he obtained his J.D. in 1977.
Upon completing his education, James went into private practice for a year before being elected Magistrate Judge for the City of St. Louis at only the age of 27. During his tenure of 23 years on the bench, he added quite a few other titles to his name. James became the Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, a Judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District and eventually became the Chief Judge of that Court. James also occasionally served on the Missouri Supreme Court by invitation of the Chief Justice. However, James' proudest achievement during his time in the courts was the establishment of the Drug Court of the City of St. Louis which has been massively successful in lowering the recidivism rate for drug offenders in St. Louis.
After leaving the judicial system, James worked with Anheuser-Busch before eventually creating his own practice. His most well-known accomplishment during this time was helping to secure one of the largest collectible jury verdicts in the history of Missouri: over $358 million dollars for the children poisoned by the Herculaneum-based lead smelter.
James joined OnderLaw, LLC in 2017 in an "Of Counsel" capacity, meaning that he serves as a consultant on many important cases typically centered around defective product liability and environmental issues.