Co-founder and Real Estate Lawyer, McPharlin, Sprinkles & Thomas (retired)
2008 Santa Clara Law Alumni Achievement Award Winner
When Catherine Sprinkles enrolled at Duke University in 1959, she says most of the women were studying in order to “have something to fall back on.”
Sprinkles had different ideas. She finished her bachelor’s degree in political science at San Jose State in 1965, and enrolled in graduate school. But the political turmoil of the 60s and her desire to have a tool to help change society led her to law school.
Sprinkles says she belonged to the first generation of women who had never heard anyone say, “You can’t do that because you’re a woman.” Though they did not have college degrees themselves, her parents had also given her the sense that she could do anything she chose to do.
Sprinkles enrolled at Santa Clara University School of Law in 1970, when her two children were in elementary school. Her class included veterans returning from Vietnam, and, for those times, numerous women.
When Sprinkles graduated in 1973, female lawyers faced a tough job market. She was lucky—she got the first job she interviewed for when the partner told her he would treat her how we would want his daughter treated. But she began hearing from other female lawyers about the disparate treatment they suffered in their firms.
Sprinkles became a tireless advocate for women in the legal profession and a leader in terms of challenging the status quo and modeling the way for other women to succeed in the profession. In the late 1970s, Sprinkles was one of a group that co-founded Santa Clara Women Lawyers, which advocated for equal treatment of women in the law. Sprinkles served on the board of California Women Lawyers and chaired the California State Bar committee on Women in the Law.
In 1986, Sprinkles joined Jackson, Tufts, Cole, & Black in San Jose and became a partner. In 1994, she co-founded McPharlin, Sprinkles & Thomas, a San Jose firm where she practices real estate law. At her firm, six of the eight partners are women. Her legal assistant is a law student at SCU.
Sprinkles has served on the California State Bar Board of Governors, on the board of the Children’s Fund of Silicon Valley, the board of governors of Women Lawyers of California, on the SCU Board of Visitors, and as past president of the Law School Board of Visitors. Sprinkles is currently involved in the San Jose Rotary Club and tutors English to immigrant adults through the Saratoga Public Library.
In 1976, Sprinkles married her law school classmate, Hon. Leonard Sprinkles ’73. The couple has four grown children between them, and three grandchildren. They enjoy birding, which often takes them to exotic locations, including Botswana, Namibia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.