THE Chief Justice has controversially decided to cut back on the ceremony marking the opening of the legal year - a move regarded as ''unfortunate'' by the Bar Association. Instead of four speeches usually given by the leaders of each branch of the legal profession, only the Chief Justice, Sir Ti Liang Yang, will speak at the ceremony to be held on January 10. There will be no inspection of the guard and because the function will be held in the Supreme Court, rather than the City Hall, only a quarter of the usual number of guests can be invited. The chairman of the Bar, Jacqueline Leong QC, described the curtailment as unfortunate as the ceremony had a long tradition in Hong Kong, being a major event and the only one at which all the separate segments of the law got together. She hoped it would be a temporary arrangement. ''It is an important opportunity for the legal profession as a whole, the judiciary, Attorney-General's chambers and the practising profession, to come together in a public display. ''It provides a chance for all those parties of the legal community to report on the activities of the past year and to address aspirations for the year ahead.'' Heading towards 1997, she thought it was even more important for the profession to maintain its high profile, although she did not think dropping the guard of honour was significant. The judiciary has not yet decided whether the change will be permanent. A spokesman gave the cautious reply that it would see how this ceremony went before making a decision. The change was made because of renovation work at City Hall, where the speeches are normally made and where there is plenty of room for the 1,850 people who are usually invited. The Chief Justice has decided to use the main entrance hall of the Supreme Court building, which is much smaller. He alone will sit on a raised platform, whereas usually he sits with the Attorney-General, chairman of the Bar, president of the Law Society, and all the judges and silks. The president of the Law Society, Roderick Woo Bun, said if this were a temporary change he was not over-concerned.