Birmingham Law Society president Steven Jonas has revealed he feared the financially stretched organisation was a "basket case" when he first took over.

And he even had second thoughts as to whether he wanted the job fearing it was "a poisoned chalice".

But he said he was glad he had stuck to his guns and carried on. Mr Jonas has now stepped down after transforming the society's finances.

Earlier this month it was revealed that the Society had reported a return to profit after posting pretax losses of £69,200 in 2003.

A combination of stringent economies and improved revenues from the society's recruitment agency and lectures and courses helped it turn around the loss into a pre-tax profit of £30,400 in the 12 months to December 31 2004 . While turnover increased from £413,000 to £444,000, operating charges were reduced from £184,000 to £142,000.

The performance also reflected a reduction in contributions to the Advised in Birmingham initiative, from £43,000 to £23,000

Mr Jonas said then that the society had taken steps to prevent it going into the red ever again, and in his departure speech expanded on his shake-up.

He told this week's annual meeting: "I can confess now that just over 12 months ago I had second thoughts. In the three weeks or so, between the 2003 figures becoming available and the 2004 AGM, I wondered whether the Society was a basket case and its presidency a poisoned chalice.

"Many, many times since then have I breathed huge sighs of relief that I stuck to my guns and the trust put in me by the Society in making me its president.

"I immediately set about trying to introduce a system of producing the figures that I felt were necessary. I hope that we have not only introduced new systems but also the mentality to ensure that should any future problems arise, they are identified as they occur and not three months after the year end.

"I have been most anxious to ensure that the officers generally, and the vice-president and the deputy vice-president in particular, were kept much more fully involved than appeared to have been the case in the past."

Noting operating profits on the recruitment side had more than doubled, he said: "Still not what it could be but heading in the right direction."

He went on: "Star of the show must, however, be the Society's courses co-ordinator, Jon Nicholls. He has turned a disastrous 2003 loss of £1,300 to a 2004 profit of nearly £31,000.

"I know that he resented the pressure I put on him to get to that position but credit is due to Jon for developing the courses Birmingham solicitors want when they want them. There is no reason why Jon should not be able to show even greater profits for 2005."

The Society is considering launching an appeal to the city's business community to help it refurbish its historic premises.

Mr Jonas said it is looking at a number of options to upgrade its headquarters in Temple Street.

Solihull solicitor Richard Follis, a partner at health law firm Alexander Harris, has succeeded Mr Jonas.

He is a leading clinical negligence solicitor who represents claimants across the UK.

In his year in office Mr Follis aims to encourage greater diversity within the profession.

He said: "The potential contribution of lawyers to the future economic development of the West Midlands is well recognised.

"The profession is more diverse and consequently stronger than ever before. The range of work carried out by lawyers has never been broader.

"We have gained strength in the number of women entering the profession and our record of recruiting people from ethnic minorities has seen significant improvement. More needs to be done, but at least the numbers are growing."