Meet The Attorneys

James L. Hagar Esq.

Jim is thoroughly committed to his clients, but he does have a life outside of the office. Jim is married to Darlene, with four children, all of whom graduated from Vista high schools. Both Jim and Darlene graduated from U.C. Berkeley and they moved to Vista in 1973 when he finished law school at the University of California -Hastings.

For Jim, his family has always been central to his life and, over the years, he has been involved in countless activities to make Vista a better place to raise children. He served as a member on the Vista Unified School District Board of Trustees for twelve years and coached over 50 seasons of youth sports teams, including soccer, softball, Little League and girls’ and boys’ basketball. Jim also coached the Varsity Academic Team at Rancho Buena Vista High School for 15 years, with one of his teams winning the County championship.

In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors for the Vista Community Clinic, North County Lifeline, Operation HOPE- Vista, and the Vista Teachers Association Scholarship Foundation. The City of Vista recognized his contributions by naming him its Person of the Year for 2013.

Jim enjoys traveling with Darlene. A highlight for them was when Darlene won a Fulbright Fellowship and they were able to live in Punta Arenas, on the Strait of Magellan, Chile, for an entire school year.

Cary L. Cotten Esq.

Cary was born in North Carolina. With his father being a career Marine, Cary had the opportunity to live in many different places. When his father ultimately retired in Vista, Cary also decided to make Vista his permanent home.

In 1973, Cary graduated from Vista High School. He continued his education at Palomar College for two years where he performed as an outstanding student and athlete. He moved to Illinois in 1975 to attend Wheaton College. Here, he received his Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Mathematics and held the school record for shot put.

He went on to the University of San Diego School of Law where he graduated Cum Laude in 1980. Continuing right along, Cary passed the Bar in 1980 and began working as an Associate at Shadle, Hunt and Hagar Law Offices. In 1982, the firm made him partner. Five years later, Jim and Cary became sole owners and Hagar and Cotten was created.

Cary has served as a Judge Pro Tem in Family Law, Civil Law and Small Claims Court. He has even had a couple of his own cases published by the Court of Appeal: Burtscher v. Burtscher and the Estate of Bridgeman.

In the past, Cary was the President of Kiwanis Club of Vista, Kiwanis Club of Sunrise Vista and also President of the Boys & Girls Club of Vista. Currently, Cary also acts as a Mediator to his clients and the community.

Cary speaks for Impact Teen Drivers, a charitable organization that “provides awareness and education to teenagers, their parents, and community members about responsible driving,” after losing his daughter, Annie, in a tragic car accident. He and his wife attend seminars and tell their story in hopes to save young lives. Please visit the Impact Teen Drivers website for more information:

Cary has been married to his wife and best friend, Lorry, for almost 25 years. He loves spending time with his children and grandchildren. He spends his free time photographing, kayaking and watching football.