The atomic structure and optical properties of ferroelectric La-doped hafnium oxide (La:HfO2) thin films grown by the plasma-assisted atomic layer deposition were investigated. Using high resolution transmission electron microscopy, it was shown that the studied La:HfO2 film has a orthorhombic polar structure with the Pmn21 space group. It was found that the film exhibits ferroelectric properties. By means of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and specroellipsometry it was established that La:HfO2 consists of the HfO2 and La2O3 phases mixture. The specroellipsometry analysis with the Bruggeman effective medium approximation showed that the investigated La:HfO2 consists of 88% HfO2 and 12% La2O3. It is shown that etching La:HfO2 with argon ions leads to the oxygen vacancies generation in the near-surface region. These vacancies are generated mainly due to the knocking out of oxygen atoms to the interstitial positions, and the following annealing at 700 °C in vacuum for 1 h leads to the annihilation of that Frenkel defects.