River Arre Panorama

Recently Patrick Delas and I attended a conference. In the normal run of things this would not be a significant event. But with the pandemic backdrop of the last two years, and with the additional dimension that the conference was in Bern, Switzerland, it felt important. Attending a conference in person brought home the benefits of connecting and interacting with others in a physical space which video calls, though excellent in their own way, cannot replicate.

The fact it was in Switzerland was interesting and a challenge. Not having travelled abroad for two years made it feel novel, but it was slightly unnerving to figure out what was needed to get into a country that does not recognise the vaccine we had received, and then imposes further requirements if you wanted to enter into any shared space whilst there. Seemingly endless tests were taken, apps downloaded and forms filled and thankfully all went well. Some passengers on the flight there did not fare so well as Swiss passport control refused their entry.

The event in question was Lexunion's annual conference, postponed from last year. Lexunion is a network of European lawyers, mostly notaries, some of whom are academics, tax advisors and lawyers who specialise in cross-border matters. Russell-Cooke is the UK member. It was simply great to reconnect with fellow professionals who we have got to know through the network. All could share their experiences about what had happened during the recent difficult times.

The conference is based around a solid academic discussion on a relevant topic which has been prepared by the speakers in the prior six months or so. The subject this year was Usufructs, a civil law concept which divides legal property ownership between parties allowing one owner the use and fruit of the assets and the property passes to the other owner when that use ends. The presentations were lively and engaging with speakers from seven different jurisdictions and Patrick and I talking about trusts and the UK taxation of Usufructs. Being in Switzerland, we were asked to think about such matters as what the use or income of chocolate might be: eat now, repay later was the popular conclusion.

Later on we divided into groups to look around Bern. I went for a walking tour of this interesting capital city. The town clock was a highlight of mechanical design including a moving statue of Kronos and bells ringing on the hour. As the main clock in this capital city it kept time for the whole of Switzerland until Greenwich Mean Time took over in the 19th century. More cross-border thoughts. Patrick joined the more adventurous in the group and partook in the local pastime of swimming in the fast flowing River Arre. The river goes around three sides of the city at some speed, with designated entry and exit points for swimmers to safely float along. It was such fun many did it twice; just to connect with the place a little bit more of course.

The pandemic has not ended yet. However, the return of events like this with all the necessary precautions is very welcome. As a careful first step towards 'normal life', it was a definite success.