James Hardman (JD '24) at the University of Cincinnati College of Law

Buoyed by Belonging

James Hardman’s Journey from the UK to UC

Under the shadow of the tallest church spire in England, in the humble city of Salisbury just 9 miles from Stonehenge, James Hardman (JD, ’24) first developed his appreciation for world history. This passion is what would eventually set him on a trajectory to work across five continents and one day find a career as a lawyer in the United States.

“The landscape where I grew up was both physically and metaphysically dominated by Salisbury Cathedral, which is over 400 feet tall,” he said. “Growing up there helped bring on my love of history.”

His first step along his path was earning degrees in French and Russian from the prestigious University of Cambridge. It was during his studies, while abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, that he met his wife Lydia, a local Cincinnatian. The two fell fast in love and she moved to England where they married. She embarked on a career in publishing while James took a position with an international investigations company as a multilingual corporate investigator.

In this role, he gained considerable experience working with law firms engaged in cross-border legal disputes or business transactions and traveled all over the world. James said he wouldn’t have guessed it, but he had a knack for seeing problems and helping people solve them, and this is what first set his sights on a law career.

“The investigation work was super interesting,” he said. “I was keen on seeing how the law impacted what we were investigating, and that’s when I started to see a future that involved law.”

Several years into their marriage, while still living in the UK, Lydia began to grow homesick. Around the same time, James began more seriously considering the idea of applying for law school.

They decided they would move to Cincinnati in 2019. Unfortunately, that’s when a worldwide pandemic hit. As borders were closing around them, the couple had to think fast.

Valerie Garcia

“The pandemic started, and we basically had three days to pack up our entire lives, to tell my work, ‘By the way, I will be working remotely because I'm moving to America tomorrow,’” he said. “We turned up at CVG (Cincinnati’s airport) with seven or eight suitcases and backpacks between us.”

Managing to make the move one week before borders shut down completely, it goes without saying that the transition was stressful for James and Lydia. Still, the two managed to land on their feet. Lydia embarked on a new career as a Vet Tech, while James took advantage of the long days of quarantine by studying for the LSAT and researching law schools in the area. Ultimately, he landed on The University of Cincinnati College of Law, a decision that laid the path for his current job at a well-known local law firm. 

“Coming to Cincinnati Law is definitely one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's given me an amazing group of friends, a new appreciation of the United States that I wouldn't necessarily have had otherwise, and new skills and knowledge that I would not have picked up,” he said. “For me, it was absolutely the right choice and I think it can be the right choice for a lot of other people as well.”

Coming to Cincinnati Law is definitely one of the best decisions I've ever made.

James said though it could be taxing at times, Cambridge helped him come well-prepared for the first year’s workload, “It’s a different level of learning.”

While the academic rigor of law school was expected, what he didn’t expect was the tight-knit community he found.

“I owe a lot to the law school. It helped me be a part of the Cincinnati community, which if I hadn't gone to law school, I think would've been very difficult,” he said.

Throughout the past three years, James has been involved in various ways, including being elected secretary of the Student Bar Association, writing and editing for the University of Cincinnati Law Review, leading a structured study group for international LLM students, as well as joining Cincinnati Law’s LLM Welcoming Committee. He even co-founded his own student organization, the popular Board Game Society, with his friend Charles Rappe.

“The Board Game Society provides a different type of escape from just reading law school textbooks and doing assignments that can be quite heavy,” he said. “Playing board games, you can develop some of the same skills you use in law, including negotiation and improvisation whilst having fun.”

"I owe a lot to the law school. It helped me be a part of the Cincinnati community, which if I hadn't gone to law school, I think would've been very difficult.”

- James Hardman, JD ‘24

James Hardman and friends playing board games

Coming from a small city in the south of England, to Cincinnati, a mid-sized city in the southwest of Ohio, wouldn’t have been what he, or anyone, would have guessed for his life. As non-traditional as his path has been, today he couldn’t see it going any other way.

“The path I've taken has sort of revealed itself to me as I've gone on, thanks to my education and the opportunities I've been fortunate enough to have,” he said. “Each of those experiences laid the path for the next step.”

Today, James looks forward to his next step post-graduation: a career at the renowned law firm Frost Brown Todd LLP. He looks forward to joining the business department in the corporate practice group, where he’ll serve the other side of the table he saw as an investigator.

“Cincinnati Law is particularly good at forging connections,” he said, making sure to credit the law school for helping him network with the local law firm as a summer extern during his 2L year. “They help buoy you as you go forward.”

Ultimately, James hopes his work as an attorney will reflect his small-town values that brought him to law in the first place: helping others.

“I would say the thing that really motivates me is - and it is kind of corny - but it's helping people. Being there to assist people in whatever it is they're trying to do.”

Valerie Garcia

Want to learn more about our students and their journey to (and through) law school? Read more stories on the "Meet Our Students" page. See yourself at Cincinnati Law!   

Author: Bachmeyer Press

Photographer: Asa Featherstone IV

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