The owner of one of Downtown Bel Air’s most successful law firms was once a law school student who made $5 an hour as a law clerk during his summer breaks. Joe Snee, a graduate student of the University of Maryland School of Law, would spend his summers making copies at Whitfill, Leaf & Hertsch. Flash forward to 2018, Joe has his own thriving law firm right here on Main Street – Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger, P.A. When you walk into the business, there is an immediate sense of pride for Downtown Bel Air. The reception area, offices, and conference room walls are decorated with images of historic Bel Air.
Joe Snee grew up right here in Downtown Bel Air near Shamrock Park. Joe graduated from Bel Air High School, where his father was a teacher. When speaking with Joe, he reminisced about iconic businesses that he grew up with; Main Street Market, Bata Shoe, Woolworth’s, the Belair Theatre, and Richardon’s Pharmacy. After high school, Joe attended the University of Maryland College Park and went on to study law at the University of Maryland School of Law.
So, how does one go from 7, to 32, to 300, then back to 7 again?
After graduating from the University of Maryland School of Law and passing the bar exam, Joe began his career as a lawyer in 1984 at Leaf & Hertsch law firm – the same firm where he made copies during his summer breaks. Joe was one of 7 lawyers at the time. A few years later, Leaf & Hertsch merged with another law firm in 1988 to service both the Towson and Bel Air areas. The law firm went from 32 lawyers, to over 300 with the merger. This explosive growth gave Joe an opportunity to work with a diverse group of people and developed him into the impressive lawyer that he is today. Eventually Joe decided that he wanted to branch out on his own and start a law firm. Currently, the thriving law firm of Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger, and Spielberger employs 7 lawyers and many other staff members that are here to meet the community’s legal needs. 7, 32, 300, and back to 7 again!
Since April of 1989, Joe has worked on Main Street in Bel Air. Along with his partners, they practiced real estate, land development, and zoning law at 11 S Main Street. Eventually the attorneys outgrew the space and in 2014, Joe decided to purchase a vacant building at 112 S Main Street. Joe envisioned a contemporary space that mimicked the outside of the original courthouse right down the street, including the same color brick and a wooden door. Many great ideas have come to fruition on the back of place mats, the same is true for Joe’s concept of his new building. One night at Looney’s Pub in Bel Air, he drew the layout of the building he had envisioned on the back of a place mat and gave it right to the engineer.
The building was stripped to its bones and an addition was added to the back of the building. Some of the original brick walls remain in the building, including one in front of what is now the kitchen, that reads, “Don’t look back, you have already been there” and Joe did just that! Renovating the building was a labor of love and in June of 2015 Joe’s dream office became a reality.
Not only has Joe’s hard work over the years made his law firm successful, he also credits his success to his colleagues. Joe has created a lively atmosphere at the law firm, in which employees celebrate the end of the week together every Friday.
Joe has seen the evolution of Downtown Bel Air throughout his lifetime. He recalls the revitalization of Main Street with the help of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, when restaurants began to fill the vacancies in downtown, then retail came in like a natural progression. Joe loves his hometown and could not imagine calling anywhere other than Main Street home for his business. Joe enjoys that downtown is highly visible, a place where you can eat, shop, and walk around, and even joked that you can “walk to court.”
I love what I do and I’m thankful that I get to practice law in the community that I grew up in.
When Joe is not assisting clients with liquor licenses or real estate development, he enjoys travelling and spending time with his wife and two children. In 2004, Joe made an impulse purchase with a few of his friends and bought a limousine bus. Together they travel to tailgates for Ravens, Orioles, and Terps games. Joe is a season ticket holder for Terps football and basketball, which is his Alma Mater. The group holds a tradition to stop at Looney’s after the various sports games they attend upon returning to Bel Air.
Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger, & Spielberger, P.A. has been a longtime member of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance. Joe remains involved with the Alliance in the effort to create a vibrant community and a business friendly destination in Downtown Bel Air. To learn more about Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger, & Spielberger, P.A., click here.