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First-year associate salaries couldn’t stay at a measly $102,000 forever. And just when partners began to think things had leveled off, here comes Menlo Park, Calif.’s White & Lee to up the ante and ruin everything. Starting Jan. 1, the nine-lawyer boutique is promising to pay a whopping $106,000 before bonuses to first-year associates. But that’s not all. The firm, which represents high-tech and Internet-based companies like Garageband.com and Palm Computing, has other enticements for associates willing to take the bait and put in the standard 2,000 hours. To show its appreciation the firm handed out bonuses of up to $45,000 this year. Additional boom-year bonuses of $10,000 were doled out before the Thanksgiving holiday. Yes associates, there is a Santa Claus.

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