Pay hikes to $160,000 for first-year associates no doubt have made those daunting hourly demands at big law firms more tolerable, but some shops are finding that a few special perks can go a long way in cultivating a warmer, fuzzier workplace.

Some law firms in the last year or so have initiated innovative fringe benefits — from retirement plans for associates to dog-walking services for busy lawyers — in an effort to distinguish them from the pack and boost attorney recruiting and retention.