Lisa Wilkinson spent $8000 per day on legal team – and now she wants it back

Lisa Wilkinson’s successful defence of Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case came at a price, with the prominent journalist spending up to $8000 a day on her top silk.

May 31, 2024, updated May 31, 2024
Barrister Sue Chrysanthou KC (left), and Lisa Wilkinson depart the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney,(AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

Barrister Sue Chrysanthou KC (left), and Lisa Wilkinson depart the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney,(AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)


The Federal Court was told that former The Project star Wilkinson spent just over $1.8 million in defending the case and was hoping to foist the vast amount of the sum on Lehrmann after his spectacular loss.

Retainer agreements the journalist had with prominent silk Sue Chrysanthou SC and her junior, Barry Dean, showed the senior barrister charged $8000 for each full day of the long-running defamation trial.

Ms Chrysanthou also had a minimum charge of $4000 if the day in court wrapped up before lunch, documents released on Thursday showed.

Shorter court appearances were billed at $800.

Mr Dean charged $3500 for each day of the trial and $350 for brief court appearances.

Wilkinson also retained Gillis Delaney as her solicitors and they charged hourly rates of up to $750 if a partner was required to do work on her case.

The court published the documents as the parties work out who will bear what share of costs in the defamation case, which Lehrmann lost in April.

In one of the most highly anticipated judgments in recent history, Justice Michael Lee found the 28-year-old had not been defamed by a Network Ten report detailing Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations.

The judge found the allegations that Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in a Parliament House office were true on the balance of probabilities.

Ms Higgins was interviewed by Wilkinson for an episode of The Project that aired in February 2021.

She told Ten that she had been raped by Lehrmann in the office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, in March 2019, a claim he has always denied.

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In May, Justice Lee ordered Lehrmann to pay the legal bills of Ten and Wilkinson on an indemnity basis, which is higher than ordinary costs.

The judge found the former Liberal staffer had brought the case on a false basis and had lied to police and the jury during his criminal trial which was eventually abandoned due to juror misconduct.

While Wilkinson is seeking $1.8 million in costs, it is not yet known how much Ten’s legal expenses will be.

Ten will cover any costs of Wilkinson’s that are deemed reasonable and will then pass that bill on to Lehrmann.

On Monday, Justice Lee noted there could be a “limited prospect” that the ex-political staffer would be able to pay back these amounts.

Lehrmann has until Friday to appeal the findings against him.

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