Some people spend months planning just the right present, but as a lawyer you probably don't have that kind of time; you might have to rely on last-minute gifts.
There's no shame in buying closer to the holidays rather than way in advance. The key is making sure you get a gift that involves at least a little forethought. That means thinking about the recipient and what he or she would want or appreciate.
Of course, it helps to narrow down the category of what you're looking to buy. Here are some ideas for a variety of people in every lawyer's life:
For your boss. If you know your boss well enough, it's not a bad idea to get his favorite bottle of scotch or a nice wine. But if you don't know his specific tastes, a donation to a cause he cares about made in his name is always a thoughtful gesture.
For your secretary/paralegal/assistant. It might be tempting to buy a specific item, but there's a good chance it will end up as clutter. Better to get a prepaid debit card or gift card. Spending $50 to $100 is probably appropriate, and it's a good idea to try getting other people who work with that support staffer to chip in as well and make it a bigger gift.
For court clerks. Depending on your area of practice, you might see these people just as much as your officemates. You don't need to get a big gift, but a small box of chocolates or other consumables will make anyone smile. Keep in mind, court rules typically only allow "de minimis" gifts that can be shared with the entire department.
For your mentor/mentee. You likely have a real relationship with this person, or at least hope to, so it's nice to give the gift of time. Invite your mentor or mentee out for coffee or maybe even a meal to say happy holidays and toast another year.
For your significant other. Buying a physical item is often a dead giveaway that you waited 'til the last minute, so find an experience you can share. A romantic weekend, a concert or food-/wine-tasting tour, or a relaxing spa day make great last-minute gifts, and no one will know you thought it up just hours before. All you need to do is book it and then make a cute gift certificate and card to "give" when you exchange gifts.