Miguel Custodio Jr. and Vineet Dubey: The Heroes on the 25th Floor

Not all heroes wear capes or leap tall buildings in a single bound. Some perform their valiant acts more subtly, wearing stylish suits and ties and riding elevators. However, one thing all heroes have in common is interceding on behalf of those who cannot protect themselves.

This latter version includes the founding partners of Custodio & Dubey LLP, located in downtown Los Angeles. Like so many origin stories, Miguel Custodio Jr. and Vineet Dubey share a long history, first meeting in law school at UCLA.

So, what’s so heroic about a pair of highly successful attorneys with plush downtown offices? Both Custodio and Dubey relate to those in our community who may not have much education, money, or a solid grasp of the English language. More importantly, they appreciate how the scales of justice tend to tip in favor of those who are well-educated, wealthy, and native U.S. citizens. They are willing to zealously battle for their clients on a contingency basis so the issue of money doesn’t have to stand in the way of obtaining full justice.


Shared Outlook

It’s not coincidental that the men share similar ethics and world views. It didn’t take long for the pair to realize how much they had in common including being first-generation offspring of immigrant parents.

“You might say we come from non-traditional backgrounds for attorneys,” says Custodio. “Unlike most of our classmates, we didn’t come from families with a history of lawyers. My parents were from Guatemala, my mom only reached a third-grade education, and my father only reached a ninth-grade education. Despite that, my parents taught me the value of hard work, discipline, and perseverance. As a result, I was the first for many things in my family, the first to graduate high school, the first college graduate and then law school. I’m very close with my family and I think that keeps me grounded.”

Miguel Custodio Jr.

“My parents immigrated to the United States from India,” says Dubey. “They came in the early 1970s to further my dad’s education. Then, they moved to Clinton, Mississippi where he got a job as an engineer. They did everything they could to give me opportunities in order to get where I am today. They instilled many of their immigrant ideals – hard work, perseverance, the importance of family; which really are American ideals. I don’t think I fully appreciated it until I was much older, but I really have to respect how they were acclimating to a new country, language and culture all the while trying to provide the best for their children. And, as Miguel pointed out, we see these same values, work ethics and struggles in our clients. We want to be the type of lawyers we would want to represent our parents or other family members.

“Looking back, I also realize I was afforded such a quality education in public schools, essentially one generation after they were integrated, tracing back to the hard work of lawyers such those in Brown v. The Board of Education,” he adds. “If not for that, our schools would not have been integrated and none of the kids I grew up with – black, white or Asian – would have benefitted from being in school together. So even back then, in the back of my mind, I think I was aware of the impact lawyers can have on a broad scale and that got me interested in the legal field.”

You might say the superpowers of these heroes are respecting their roots as well as advocating virtually peerless diversity in their firm. Within their offices, you’ll find people from a variety of countries and cultures, such as their associate Marianna Oustinovskaya, who originates from Russia and learned English as a teen by watching American TV. These are critical factors to their thriving practice, serving many clients who, like their parents, come from other countries and don’t always speak fluent English.

“I see my mom in a lot of our clients,” says Custodio. “If I wasn’t an attorney and my mom needed one, she would one thousand percent believe whatever that attorney told her. I keep that in mind when I’m talking to our clients, especially those with limited education because I know they are putting their trust in us, and we cannot let them down. We absolutely cannot let them down.”

Everyday Citizens

Although both attorneys went through the “BigLaw” interview process at UCLA Law School  and were quickly snapped up by prestigious firms, it didn’t take long for them to feel the constraints and lack of satisfaction in their work.

“I think we each recognized that these corporate cultures weren’t for us,” says Dubey. “The clients were primarily huge corporations. Miguel and I both had very specific visions of the kind of law we wanted to practice and that was to help the little guy and take on those large corporations.”

“All the work we do is on contingency,” adds Custodio. “Our view is that we need to serve the everyday citizen. The only real way for the everyday person to get fair representation in court is by having an attorney who will work 100 percent contingency, otherwise many of these people would never be able to have their day in court.”

Vineet Dubey

It was for these reasons the two decided it made sense to team up. Each had launched solo practices, Custodio in family law and Dubey plaintiff civil law. Because they had maintained their friendship after leaving UCLA it was inevitable that their conversations would occasionally turn to current cases, exchanging ideas and comparing experiences.

“I had been working at a very prestigious, high-end family law firm on the West Side that does high net worth and celebrity divorces and cases,” says Custodio. “I was born and raised here in LA, so I had a circle of people here that I grew up with and they were always asking me if I handled civil cases. So, after working at the family law firm for about two years I decided I would be better able to serve Latinos if I went out on my own.

“Then, when Vineet was on his own, we decided that maybe we could join forces,” he adds. “At first, we were just referring each other cases or consulting until we decided we should just make it official. We got our first case and it just kind of snowballed from there.”

Dubey’s career path up until then had begun with real estate law until the housing debacle of 2008 brought a crushing end to that and he began to explore other alternatives.

“For a while I worked for a small, solo practitioner and then came downtown to a plaintiff’s firm that did employment law on the plaintiff side,” he says. “So, I got a pretty diverse range of experience in civil law. After three or four years of that, I was thinking of going out on my own so I called Miguel for advice since he’d made that move about six months prior. He gave me some good advice to help me get launched, but we continued to stay in touch.”

Growing and Moving Up

That was 10 years ago, and far from the elegant offices that now house Custodio & Dubey, the partners’ first address was a small space in Pasadena.

“It was one room,” says Dubey, “and we literally had just two desks and a printer. It was just me and Miguel doing everything. We did the intake, we acted as our own receptionist, our own paralegals, and anything that came through the door we handled together and worked side by side on the cases. That’s how we got started and through hard work and a little bit of luck, cases came in.”

Their steady growth led them to slightly bigger office space, but this time the location was in downtown Los Angeles.

“It took about three years,” Custodio says, “but we were very excited about that because it was like downtown, we made it! It was still very small, but we felt the location was an indication that we were growing. About a year later, we got a slightly bigger space that had three offices and a glass conference room.

“We were pretty pleased with ourselves,” he adds with a chuckle. “That’s also when we brought in our first employee.”

Two moves later and the rapidly expanding firm took over a spacious office in the Union Bank Plaza with floor to ceiling windows, sleek architecture and impressively elegant furnishings.

“It’s amazing how good it feels to actually see how physically you’re growing,” says Custodio. “It’s one thing to know you’re bringing in lots of cases and the client list is growing, but having a visual indicator of your success and knowing that the larger offices are to accommodate a growing staff feels pretty good.

“Moving to this office was really significant,” he adds. “We’re on the 25th floor with incredible views and when clients come in, it’s obvious they’re impressed. We always catch them taking pictures and putting them on social media.”


Learning from the Ground Up

It wasn’t just the office space that grew and improved. Both attorneys believe that because they had to fill all the roles of a busy firm themselves during those early years, they are better able to relate to and manage their current staff.

“I think it’s a misconception many attorneys or other small business owners have that they need to hire staff immediately,” Custodio notes. “Not only is it smart business to stay lean until you grow enough to comfortably afford employees, but also when you approach it like Vineet and I did, doing everything ourselves, you understand and better appreciate exactly what each position requires. If you haven’t done that job yourself, how are you going to be able to effectively manage your employees if you don’t know exactly what duties those positions entail?”

Exponentially, the types and sizes of their cases have also grown. One of the more recent examples resulted in a $35 million settlement.

“This was a case that took four years to finally get a resolution on,” says Custodio. “It was a case involving a relatively young woman with a major brain injury. Sadly, she will never be the same for the rest of her life. Due to the devastating nature and complexity of the case, we knew we were going to have to be very aggressive and tenacious.”

Custodio and Dubey worked with leading personal injury firms in California including Nick Rowley and Courtney Rowley at Trial Lawyers for Justice, Carpenter & Zuckerman, and The Simon Law Group.

“You have to realize that it doesn’t just impact this poor woman’s life, but also that of her husband, children, parents, and extended family,” adds Custodio. “Because of this large settlement she is now able to receive the quality medical care she will need for the rest of her life.”

Once again, Custodio cannot help but think of his own family when helping clients facing such horrific tragedies.

“It makes you realize that life can end or change irrevocably in an instant,” he says. “It’s important that you tell your loved ones how much you love them every day because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.”

Since his father passed away four years ago, Custodio has been extra vigilant in caring for his 76-year-old mother. He not only visits her regularly but makes sure she gets to her doctor appointments and helps with her shopping.

“We’ve always been very close,” he says, “but especially since losing my father I’m even more appreciative of the time I have with my mom.”

Outside the courtroom, Dubey enjoys time with his wife, Ritu, and their sons, Vaughn and Reeve.

“It’s a very busy time in our lives,” he says with a grin. “The days are long, but the years are short and my wife and I are trying to enjoy and appreciate raising our little boys as much as we can I can’t believe our oldest is already almost five and our youngest is two and a half.”

If you haven’t done that job yourself, how are you going to be able to effectively manage your employees if you don’t know exactly what duties those positions entail?”

Upward Trajectory

As their firm continues to grow, Custodio and Dubey stay true to their mission to be the proponents and defenders of the “little guy.” The days grow busier and the workload heavier. However, regardless of how big they grow, they are adamant about retaining their one-on-one, personalized attention to every client.

“As soon as a client contacts us they are assigned a case manager and meet with an attorney either in person or by Zoom so that they can get their questions answered and know that we are fully invested in their case,” says Custodio.

From the small office in Pasadena to the 25th floor of a skyscraper in downtown LA, Custodio and Dubey’s reputation for their dedication and defense of the everyday citizen also continues to grow.

“It’s a profession we’re proud of and work that positively impacts people’s lives,” says Dubey.

“The sky’s the limit,” adds his partner. “We’re on an upward trajectory but we’ll never sacrifice service for growth.”

At a Glance

Custodio & Dubey LLP
445 S. Figueroa St,
Suite 2520
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 593-9095

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Vineet Dubey


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Miguel Custodio Jr.


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